Photo by Dan Bailey

Why I’m switching from from Full Frame DSLR cameras to the FujiFilm XT-1

I’m a maniac when it comes to cameras. I absolutely love them. Photography is a passion of mine, and the camera equipment is an obsession. Since I was a little kid, I used to sneak into my dad’s study while he was at work to play around with his Minolta Maxxum cameras. Oh, those were amazing camera bodies for their time.

Fujifilm XT-1 camera with battery grip. Photo by Karl Bratby

For a long time, I’ve been shooting on DSLR’s with my most recent camera being the Canon 5D Mark III. It’s a fantastic camera for many reasons but mainly for its ease of use and the high-quality images it produces. I invested a lot of Canon lenses which makes the thought of switching to another camera system a big deal. Not only am I going to switch to another system but one with a smaller sensor on its flagship camera.

A few years back I purchased my first Fujifilm camera. It’s the X100. It’s a remarkable digital rangefinder-style APS-C digital camera. I use it all the time — more than my Canon. A lot of the photography I do is street photography so having a small discrete camera is important.

Recently I got the chance to try a Fujifilm XT-1 camera and wow. The camera feels good. The rubber and metal body look like something from the 1970’s. The shutter is quiet and fast. The Fujifilm lenses feel very much like Leica lenses, they have a heavy metal feel to them and manual controls. The XT-1 doesn’t sport a full frame sensor it’s an APS-C sensor, so there is a 1.5 crop factor on the lenses, but that won’t be much of a problem. Fujifilm makes a great selection of prime and zoom lenses, and they are all very high quality. Almost as good as Leica lenses and in some cases better.

Fujinon lenses are fantastic

Most people don’t realize that Fuji has great expertise in making glass. They’ve been making it for years for scientific and industrial purposes. When Fuji decided to make consumer lenses it went into the market with a name that isn’t as familiar as Nikon, Canon and of course Carl Zeiss. Its lenses, however, are just as good and in many cases better, especially the primes.

You’ve got the Fujinon 56mm 1.2 or the 23mm 1.4 or even the newly announced 90mm F2. They are all great lenses, very sharp, with great performance. Photographers universally agree that Fujinon makes great glass. (Fuji also makes an adapter that allows you to use Leica M mount lenses on your XT-1.)

Great knobs and buttons on top. Photo by Karl Bratby.

Great styling

Back to the XT-1. This is a very cool camera. It has vintage styling sort of like the cameras you’d buy in the 1960 and 1970’s. It has all metal construction with knobs and dials that you can turn to change the settings. These controls make this camera a lot of fun to use and one of the best camera’s on the market for street photography. You can change aperture with the ring on the lens, shutter speed with the a clicky dial on the top and exposure compensation with another clicky dial also on the top. There are very few cameras on the market that feature the latest digital features in a very analog body. This is one of the best.

Flexible rear display and easy to reach controls. Photo by Karl Bratby.

The XT-1 is a little smaller than a comparable Nikon or Canon DLSR because it does not use an optical viewfinder. Instead, it uses a very high resolution digital display in the viewfinder also called an EVF. The quality is so good you would be hard pressed to tell the difference. With the EVF Fujifilm is able to overlay information that would be otherwise impossible with an optical viewfinder. This make the camera much more useful in situations where you would struggle with an optical viewfinder. For example when shooting portrait mode the on-screen information rotates so that it is always facing the right direction. On an optical camera this information is fixed so it’s harder to read as you rotate the camera.

The Wifi feature on this camera is pretty cool. I have an optional Fujifilm digital photo printer that I use to turn this camera into an Instamatic. I can take a photo with the XT-1 and then wirelessly print it in a matter of seconds. My kids love this feature and run around shooting photos of themselves making wacky faces. It’s a gimmicky feature for sure but it’s fun. The WiFi feature also comes in handy for transmitting photos from the camera to my iPhone or iPad. This feature is useful for when I need to email a high-quality photo via my iPhone. I simply shoot it via the XT-1 and then send it over to my iPhone’s photo library. It’s fast, easy and powerful.

Nostalgia

I love shooting with the Fuji XT-1. It reminds me of the photography courses I took in high school. My instructors encouraged me to use manual controls with focus and exposure to get more control over my photographs. This camera reminds me a lot of that experience. It makes me think before I shoot and frankly the quality of my photos is better as a result. There is something about shooting with digital that makes me lazy. I can snap hundreds of bad photos and wade through to find a few good ones. This camera and the old school methods of thinking about exposure, framing and all of the other details that digital cameras hide from you result in better pictures.

Fuji Film plans to release a big update to the firmware on the XT-1 this June with all new auto-focus routines. It should provide a significant upgrade to the existing autofocus capability allowing you to do some pretty cool things. I’m happy with the camera’s current autofocus capability so the new features will be icing on the cake for me.

Lastly the camera comes in black and also this super sleek looking graphite silver. Go with the graphite silver — you won’t regret it.

Photo by Three Guys with Cameras

Originally published at www.joshkerr.com on May 25, 2015.

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