Fuji XT-1. Is it really a professionals camera?

The DSLR v Mirrorless Debate goes on

I have been using two Fuji XT-1’s for nearly 2 years. After using Canon for 35 years the honeymoon period for the Fuji is most definitely over and I can now coldly evaluate how well this camera performs in my professional world. All the critisms below are purely personal gripes. Other photographers with different working habits may well have a completely different experience.

I am a busy headshot photographer. On average I would be taking and processing 1300 images per morning in the studio and on locations. I work quickly and need the gear to be reliable. My booking schedule is very tight and there really is no room for stuff to go wrong.

  • Could I use the Fuji as the only camera to do my job. No.
  • Could I use the Canon 5D Mk111. Yes

As a Canon user for 35 years switching over and using the Fuji XT-1 was not a pleasurable task.  I really don’t believe many of the reviewers of cameras  can put a score on ease of use when handling a camera for a week or two. The camera should be invisible to you. Just an extension of your hands. You dont have to work out where your ear is to scratch it so in order to ‘feel’ a camera you need time…and I needed a lot of time. It took me 10 months to really get use to the Fuji’s handling and making the best out of the files. That is a considerable effort in time which I thought would be worth it in the long run. A combination of lifting heavy cameras and retouching for 35 years has left my right shoulder joint completely knackered through RSI. The top 3 vertebre of my neck are also fused through being constantly in the same position when looking through a viewfinder. The Fuji appealed because it was small and light and I could easily sustain shooting using the equivilent of a 70-200mm zoom. Because of it size it was also a great street camera. It also has some very good lenses, optically very sharp and I liked the raw files.

Does it stack up against the Canon as a professional camera for my work? Unfortuanely no. Its a good camera and I still use it a lot and certainly won’t be bad mouthing a camera that I like so much. But when the chips are down the Fuji does not deliver.

Handling

None of the buttons are where I would like them to be. The 4 way navigation button is flat and way to small. You had to be very careful when changing ISO or shutter speeds not to move the other levers under those dials. I tried out a friends Olympus and the handling was wonderful. All the buttons were in places you would expect and you could feel them under your fingers. Important controls like AE lock and exposure compenstation were easily accessable in both portrait and landscape mode. After 2 years I still have to hunt for them on the Fuji. Now I know these are personal moans and much of this has been blogged before and that the Fuji XT-2 has begun to address some of these issues. I congratualte Fuji listening to its customers but do I really want to splash out on 2 new bodies after only 2 years work? Well not really, and on a new body that only partially corrects the issues I have. I would expect to get at least 3 – 4 years out of the Canons.

Flash

The little flash that comes with the EX-1 has never worked on both bodies no matter what settings I choose. To be a real contender in the pro market I would have thought Fuji might have made the XT-1 Pocket Wizard friendly. Existing pros might be able to use their current speedlites with the Fuji rather than buy a set of Yongnou’s. I also need High Speed Sync which is not available using the Fuji. It is also a real pain when used with studio flash. You can make it work but its way easier to use a DSLR.

General use

Focusing is simply quicker on the Canon. The Fuji still hunts focus especially in back lit situations but it is accurate when locked in. I did have a day when the focus hardly worked at all. Very frustrating when trying to earn living from photography! Somehow I think the firmware had got corrupted so when I did an update it did cure the problem. If I was shooting where I could not get an internet connection and it was the only camera I was using then it could have been disaster. Because the focusing speed is not quite up there with the Canon then I have to ask myself – do I miss pictures because of this. I have to say, yes I do. Even though I tend to work more methodically with the Fuji there are times I am locked out of the shutter because it can’t find focus. I make my living by pressing the shutter at the right time so this is a worry professionally speaking. I also had an issue with my X Pro-1 when the camera would not work at all. It would start up but I could not take a picture. The problem was one corrupted image on the card. The only solution was to change the card or format the one in camera losing the rest of the images I had taken. If I only had one card at the time then this is another disasterous situation and one I have never experienced with the Canon. Start up times are still slower than a DSLR and the battery life is rubbish…. but we all know that don’t we?

Where and Tear

The Fuji’s are looking tired after less than 2 years work. Lots of silver showing through the dials and the faux leather on the vertical grip is falling off. (I don’t have sweaty hands BTW!)

The camera has not worn well.

Conclusion

Though the Fuji is a very capable camera and I still have fondness for it but I have some deep reservations about the overall Fuji system as professional kit. On the plus side the RAW files are very good, image quality is great for most tasks, its small and light which is a boon for travel photographers. What the Fuji needs is a professional flash system or at least be comaptabile with Pocket Wizard’s so pro’s can use their existing speedlites. High Speed Sync is also must. A nice touch when using studio flash would be an alert whenever a sync cord or remote trigger was attached to switch the Fuji to screen settings suitable for use in a studio. The current optics are excellent though limited in range. The lens map is crying out for a really fast portrait length prime at around f1.2 .The overall handling well, needs an overhaul.

The Canon is a much more capable camera in every way and I would encourage anyone thinking of buying a pro system for pro use to buy Canon or Nikon. The Fuji has its place though and is a great street and travel photographers camera. I will carry on using the Fuji for some of my work but I won’t be throwing away my Canon anytime soon.

3 Comments

  1. Scott Akins says:

    John,
    Thanks for taking the time to follow up on your initial review of the X-T1 and Fuji system. It sounds like many of the issues you had were specific to the Fuji system and not to mirrorless cameras in general. Would you consider that to be accurate? Thanks, Scott

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