Mirrorless (Fuji XT-1) v DSLR debate

Why I am selling my mirrorless system (Fuji XT-1)

I have been using two Fuji XT-1’s for nearly 3 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 criticisms 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. I also travel a lot and though I don’t earn my money from travel photography, I love street photography and would regularly carry two cameras around taking candids.

I have in the past praised the little Fuji but having used it now for three years I am getting more and more frustrated with the system. So much so that I am going to sell it.

The Fuji appealed because it was small and light. Perfect for street and travel photography (and my ageing shoulders!). It also has some very good lenses, optically very sharp and I liked the raw files. I have tried very, very, VERY hard to like this camera and have sung its praises in the past but I am afraid it has let me down on too many occasions.

Handling

In a word..terrible. None of the buttons are where they should be and are all too flat to feel with your fingers. I had to adapt the buttons using Black Tacti-Mark. The 4 way navigation button is also flat, too small and its not placed where it should be, under your thumb. I have set the navigation button up to change the focusing point but many times I have hit the quick menu button by mistake. Not a big thing you might say but when I am shooting on the street photo oppurtunities change constantly and hitting the wrong button can be the difference in not getting your picture. You have to be very careful when changing ISO and shutter speeds not to move the other levers under those dials that effect metering and continuous shooting.  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 congratulate Fuji listening to its customers but do I really want to splash out on 2 new bodies after only 3 years work? Well not really, and on a new body that only partially corrects the issues I have.

Focusing

Focusing is simply quicker and more accurate on the DSLR. The Fuji still hunts focus especially in back lit and challenging lighting conditions. 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. Now if I was shooting where I could not get an internet connection and it was the only camera I was using then I would have had to cancel the shoot. Also because the focusing speed is not quite up there then I have to ask myself – “do I miss pictures because of this”. I have to say, yes I do. When that happens I get extremely annoyed and frustrated and 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.

Corruption and a dodgy battery door

I make my living by pressing the shutter at the right time so this is a worry professionally speaking. Also had an issue 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 disastrous situation and one I have never experienced with the Canon. I use 2 cameras when I am travelling. I don’t like camera bags so they are around my shoulders all the time. On at least 4 occasions the battery door has come open and the battery has dropped out. On 3 of those occasions I have heard the battery hit the floor. The last time though, in Myanmar I lost the battery.  The battery life is so poor that I carry 4 batteries to get through a day. Having only 3 would severely restrict my shooting. In Myanmar there are no camera shops so there is little chance of buying a replacement.  Luckily I lost the battery on the final day of a 2 week trip. If it happened at the beginning it would have seriously curtailed my all day shoots.

Flash

The little flash that comes with the XT-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 and 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.

Where and Tear

The Fuji’s are looking tired after less than 3 years work. Lots of silver showing through the dials. The faux leather on the vertical grip is falling off and the same can be said of material around the navigation dial on both cameras. I swear that the focusing on with the 55-140mm is getting less and less responsive. I use 2 zooms and the rubber zoom control rings on both lenses are sliding off. I don’t have sweaty hands BTW!) One of the metal triangles that hold the strap on has got badly buckled and the rubber cover on the underside that protects the terminals for the battery grip has come off and is lost.

Conclusion

Does it stack up against the Canon as a professionals camera for my work? No. When the chips are down the Fuji does not deliver.

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

 Though the Fuji is a very capable camera 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 and its small and light which is a boon for travel photographers. What the Fuji needs is a professional flash system or at least be compatible 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 as a travel photographers camera and as a backup body for some shoots but not as the camera to run your business.

1 Comment

  1. jon says:

    Hi john
    just found your blog. have bought the xt1 had it about six months i am not a
    pro just a hobbyist like yourself i was using a nikon d610 think i made a
    mistake now we be selling xt1 going back to nikon think i got caught up
    with all the hype with fuji .cheers jon

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