Mirrorless Mirrorless, On the Wall
The Fuji X-T1 is my favorite camera to date. I'm not even sure where to begin with all of the things I love about it, so let me just point out the things that separate it from its DSLR counterparts.
Size and Weight:
The X-T1 is probably the perfect size. That may sound weird, but let me explain. We live in a world where companies continue to make things smaller and thinner, and there doesn't seem to be any end to this trend in sight. A was recently talking to a friend of mine who purchased his first interchangeable camera, the Sony NEX-5TL, and he said it's actually a little too small for comfortable shooting. He's constantly pressing the shutter release button with his thumb because the grip in the front doesn't accommodate his normal-sized hands. Cameras can be too small. The also can be too big. These aren't exclusively subjective qualities. The X-T1 is the right size and the right weight. It feels very comfortable in my hands and doesn't weigh me down. Fuji hit a home run with this design.
The Electronic Viewfinder (EVF):
Every review you'll read about the X-T1 will tell you that you have to see the EVF to believe it. And they're right. It's huge, it's bright, it's informative. When you rotate the camera into portrait orientation, the shooting information rotates with you so you're not reading it sideways. When you take a shot, the image review shows up in the EVF. That's italicized because it amazing. You can have it show you the image for a specific duration, or not at all, it's totally up to you, but I highly recommend everyone try this feature out at least once because it'll make your production workflow that much more efficient. Imagine not taking your head away from your camera anymore to review images. It's a dream come true because the image comes to you, not you to it.
Quick Aufofocus (AF):
The AF system packs a punch - it's super fast and accurate. I can't tell you the number of times my DSLR has thought it was in-focus, but the lens AF-finetune had shifted ever-so-slightly, so now all of the images from that shoot were a hair out of focus. It makes me want to scream to the heavens when that happens. We don't have to worry about that sort of stuff with the X-T1. The AF system isn't perfect (in fact, one particular part of the AF is on my weaknesses list), but it does 95% of what I want incredibly well.
Physical Dials and Switches:
Having hardware access to the ISO, Shutter Speed, and Exposure Compensation on the camera (plus aperture on the lens) makes shooting a very physical and mechanical experience. It doesn't feel like a computer - you don't need to dig through digital menus to change settings. I'd also argue that the traditional way of changing settings like ISO through the use of a function key (meaning you press and hold a button, then turn a dial) is one step removed from the way Fuji mapped it out on the X-T1. I like doing a single thing to make a single other thing happen. It's a pleasant way to interacting with the device.
Really comes in handy when shooting video or high/low angle shots. I typically use the EVF almost exclusively, and that was the same on a DSLR as well, 99% of my time was spent looking through the viewfinder, not at the back of the screen. However, since the screen tilts out and pivots, I've found it to be very useful in specific cases. Articulating displays aren't new, they're just new to DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras. See, when the display pops-out and pivots, it makes two important compromises: durability and weather protection. These screen can be weather sealed on the back, it's just more difficult for manufacturers to do so - it drives the cost up. The durability issue is the biggest problem. When the screen pops-out, it does so on hinges. These cameras are frequently bumped on objects, scuffed, tossed around in bags, etc - if that display is out when those seemingly insignificant things happen, the entire camera can break. The responsibility is really on the photographer to take care of it when it's popped-out.
For DSLRs, once the camera is shipped, it is exactly as it will be until you break it, sell it, or both. Minor firmware updates are issued to resolve programming errors, but almost never introduce new features. Enter the Fuji X-T1's firmware update scheduled to drop on December 18th (link). I'll do a separate post about this once the firmware ships, but in the meantime, we're being promised a new electronic shutter feature (for silent shooting up to 1/32,000 of a second), the Classic Chrome film simulation, Natural Live View, and a bunch of other tweaks. It is so darn refreshing to see a firmware update bring something substantial to the table.
Now for the Drawbacks
As many know, nothing can have all strengths and no weaknesses. Meaning if something is great at being small, its weakness is it not being large. The Fuji X-T1 is not exempt from the natural order of things. Here are the two main areas where the X-T1 fall slightly short in my opinion:
Autofocus in Low Light:
As I pointed-out in the previous section, the X-T1's AF performance is great. But here's the thing, DSLR's are currently the king when it comes to AF. They are fast. No wait, they are super-fast. And super accurate. The problems I have with DSLR focusing is the AF Finetune adjustments, the fact that they push and pull in and out over time, and it's a pain in the butt to maintain them. It doesn't mean their AF is bad, it just needs attention. The X-T1 doesn't have as good of an autofocus system as a DSLR, period. Especially in low light. That being said, I've shot events in what appeared to be near-darkness and it performed admirably. It's just that the DSLR would have been faster. We need to give this some time to grow and develop. Mirrorless autofocus has come a long way in the last few years. Give it another year or two and I think we'll be where DSLRs are today.
No flash in Continuous Motor Drive:
This is a weird one. A really, really weird one. Almost a deal-breaker for some. The Fuji's flash can ONLY fire in Single Shot drive mode, not Continuously Low or Continuously High. It can fire regardless of the AF drive, meaning it can be in single or continuous autofocus, but not more than one shot at a time. This is sort of annoying. And maybe its because the pop-up flash, the EF-X8, will overheat. It could be as simple as that. I've tested it with multiple radio triggers in the continuous drive modes with no success, so it might be a limitation until Fuji releases a flash that could keep up, then they allow it? Again, it's weird. It's a guess at this point as to why it can't do that when every other camera can. Maybe we'll figure it out with the next firmware update.