Meet the Fujifilm X-T1

Someone please explain the mysteries of retail marketing and sales, because they baffle me. Last week, I quite unexpectedly purchased the Fujifilm X-T1, which got clumsy break-in during San Diego Comic-Con 2015. The story I tell is true, a point necessary to emphasize because I wouldn’t believe it if not for my real-life experience.

Last November, I asked: “Fujifilm X100T or X-T1?” After making comparisons, seriously evaluating my budget, contemplating my past experience using the X100, and considering the benefits of nearly-silent leaf shutter and ND filter to compensate for the Southern California sun, I chose the fixed-lens camera. Besides, I have used only mirrorless digicams since Sigma DP1 in early 2008 and, with brief Olympus PEN sojourn, only non-interchangeable lens shooters. 

Not long after I purchased the X100T, Fuji announced a X-T1 firmware update that would bring forward features found on the smaller shooter that most affected my decision beyond budget, such as:

  • Classic Chrome film simulation mode
  • Electronic shutter for essentially silent operation
  • Shooting up to 1/32000 sec, which can composite for the imposing shadows and contrasting lighted areas that the San Diego sun imposes

Note: These capabilities came with the silver X-T1, which was out of stock most everywhere and exceeded my budget in autumn 2014. Still, as Fuji updated the black model to v3.0 firmware, I wondered whether the interchangeable-lens mirrorless would better suit my arguably advanced amateur shooting. The dedicated dials, particularly adding ISO, really appeals to my indoor-shooting habits. But I owned the X100T and adored the stealth street shooter.

Then came the incident as Comic-Con commenced. Amazon discounted the X-T1 kit with XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS kit lens by $250, bringing it within my budget’s reach if selling the X100T and adding in my birthday money. While heading down to the Convention Center for SDCC Preview Night, I stopped into Best Buy to physically handle the X-T1. The electronics store had cut the price, too.

The camera is considerably heavier than the X100T but has great balance. Overall handling made a positive impression. I left the store for Preview Night, wondering what if.

Four hours later, I returned to Best Buy to once again explore the X-T1. Between my visits, the store put out a second price ticket that so confused me I asked a clerk to confirm it: X-T1 kit bundled with the XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS for another $100, which worked out to $150 less than the regular price for body and single glass only. Last week, Amazon offered the telephoto for $499.99. It’s $699.99 as I write and the X-T1 kit is MSRP again.

What parallel universe did I enter eight days ago? I took the unexpected opportunity as fate and purchased the bundle, with some angst. Photo-shooting was my primary objective for Comic-Con 2015, and taking on a new camera presented risks. Fortunately, familiarity defines Fuji X-series digicams. Controls are laid out similarly enough, and menu systems are functionally identical for the two cameras.

I reasoned that with 14-day buyer’s remorse policy, I could give the X-T1 brutal field test, which if failing would end with return for refund. Among my concerns: The two Xes use identical sensors such that image quality should be comparable. Except:

  • In looking over reviews, X-T1 photos appear sharper to my eyes, and I have often felt X100-series pics are too soft.
  • The X100T, like its predecessors, consistently gets white balance, contrast, and other attributes right nearly all the time; it’s amazing!
  • I mainly shoot aperture priority, and the X00T’s dedicated ring is tactile, stiffly clicks, and offers one-third stops, while the 18-55mm lens ring is less obvious and can accidentally change.

Because the X-T1 is so new, and I haven’t had this much manual control ever, my field test was basic at best, but rewarding. Despite larger physical size and weight, I enjoyed shooting the Fuji more than its sibling. I captured JPEGs and RAW, also adapting my previous plan for the Con: Mainly use the digicam but grab some photos with iPhone 6 for social sharing. But being so satisfied with the X-T1’s pics, I downloaded Fujifilm’s wireless transfer app while onsite, occasionally transferring images to the phone then posting them to Google+.

Last night, I Craigslisted the X100T, making final decision to keep the more recent purchase. If I could afford to use both, I would; budget doesn’t allow. Some value will be lost in the sale, and there are plenty of stealth street shooting situations where the X100T would be the better carry-along. I can’t financially justify keeping both cameras.

There is always the option to return the X-T1 kit and telephoto, too, and six days remain to do so. But I’m thinking: Much as I really love the X100T, it is a camera I will grow out of, while the X-T1 is one I will grow into.

You can find more pics of both cameras at my Fuji X-T1 Flickr set.