Continuing Fuji Thoughts

Daybreak on the island of Stromboli. Captured with the Olympus EM5. read the text to find out why.
Daybreak on the island of Stromboli. Captured with the Olympus EM5. read the text to find out why.
It’s now been a few weeks since I purchased the Fuji X-T1 and I think it’s fair to say it’s been a bit of a roller coaster in terms of how I have taken to the camera. But despite this it’s also been a huge learning experience for me and one that I am happy (now) that I have had. With this in mind I wanted to share some further thoughts about the camera in a few broad areas.

Handling & Build Quality

The camera is very well thought out and handles perfectly, at least for me. All the dials and buttons are where I would like to find them on the body, allowing me to work quickly. I find the layout and operation largely intuitive but so far I am probably using only a fraction of the features. I tend to shoot in Aperture Priority mode and then use exposure compensation to correct the exposure.

The only niggle that I have is that when I am changing the ISO dial, I sometimes catch the dial below this and set the camera to do multiple exposures or something equally annoying. With the EM5 this wouldn’t have bothered me as I tended to keep the ISO at the base 200. With the X-T1 I am much happier to push the ISO high for reasons I will mention shortly.

The build quality of the camera gives a lot of confidence. I have heard some people complain the body is too light, but I would say it’s about right and is in line with the EM5 that was my main camera.

The camera with lens attached is slightly larger than the EM5 and I probably need to find a new bag. I am struggling to fit a body and two lenses into my LowePro 140 which can take my EM5 and three lenses. I would say thought that size and weight of the Fuji kit is still acceptable as a travel and trekking camera.

Lens Range

The lens range is excellent although not as large as the Micro 43 range. I really like the build quality of the lenses, especially the super wide angle 10-24mm. Although there are a couple of lenses in the Micro 43 range that offer similar focal lengths these won’t accept filters due to the front element protruding. As I rely on lens filters heavily to achieve good exposures, this makes the Fuji system a real joy to use.

In the past I have tried the Micro 43 wide angles and then sold them because of the filter issue. Only the Olympus 9-18 remains in my kit as it will accept filters but it just doesn’t compare to the Fuji 10-24.

So far I have only tried 4 Fuji lenses. These are:

  • 10-24 – excellent
  • 16-55 – excellent
  • 55-200 – excellent
  • 18-135 – poor

It’s possible the 18-135 that I bought (and which has now been returned) was faulty. I experienced some focus issues with this lens as well as it appearing to exaggerate the watercolour effect (see below).

Overall the lenses that I have give me a great deal of confidence in the Fuji system.

I particularly like the Image Stabilisation in the lenses (although I would prefer it in the camera body). Despite this I seem to be able to shoot at some crazy shutter speeds handheld. Couple this with the excellent noise handling at high ISO (see image quality below) and you have a very flexible camera. It’s a real shame that the stabilisation is missing from the 16-55mm lens.

Image Quality

My initial thoughts on the image quality were that it was poor. I couldn’t believe this was a premium camera with no anti-aliasing filter as my result were so soft. With more use I have come to realise a few important points:

  • The water colour effect is a problem with the Adobe software but you can improve the results with careful sharpening, noise reduction and contrast/micro-contrast adjustment. The feedback on the “Fuji RAW File Conversion Challenge” was very insightful.
  • There are a number of factors that seem to exaggerate the water colour effect as mentioned below and you should try to minimise these in your shooting. This includes camera shake and getting the depth of field/focus point wrong.
  • Poor lens performance appears to exaggerate the Adobe water colour effect problem. Remember, lenses may not perform well across their entire focal range and aperture making the problem more difficult to pin down.
  • The water colour effect can be hidden if you are working on a screen with a high pixel density. If you are using a large screen with such as a 24” screen in HD resolution (1980 x 1020) you will likely see it much more than if you were using a 27” 5K Mac screen.
  • There are some great RAW converters out there which do a superb job of decoding the XTrans RAW file. Both Iridient and RAW Therapee produce better results for me than Adobe software, with fine detail being preserved and not becoming blocky. The Adobe software also appears to introduce a false pattern in distant foliage and which these other RAW converters avoid.
  • The images are very clean with noise not being evident. Even when I am shooting at ISO800 I have can happily turn off the noise reduction (Luminance and Colour) in order to better preserve fine details.
  • The RAW files are very flexible and stand up well to heavy processing. You are able to recover significant amounts of shadow and highlight detail without causing noise or other issues to become evident.
  • Colours are excellent and the film simulations supported in Lightroom are superb although sometimes a little contrasty. It’s therefore best to apply these first if you are using Lightroom. I also recently discovered that the Iridient RAW converter has its own version of these simulations which are also good and can be applied to other camera RAW files, not just Fuji.

Switching back to the EM5

Last week I took a bit of a break and went to Italy to hike up a few volcanoes. I decided not to take the Fuji as it was a little heavier and bulkier than the EM5. Overall I had the feeling the EM5 was a little like a toy camera in comparison to the Fuji. This is despite me having loved the EM5 for over three years. Now I am back and looking at the images I have captured, the RAW files don’t feel as flexible when applying image adjustments. I can also see much more fine noise in the images than with the Fuji RAW files, even when the EM5 is at base ISO.

In summary, I’m now sold on the Fuji. The only question now is do I carry out the rest of my plan to buy the Fuji X-T2 when its released? I’m really tempted by the increased pixels but would I be better upsizing the X-T1 images?


15 thoughts on “Continuing Fuji Thoughts

  1. I have XT2, I believe the processing problem is no longer a factor. I am using primes, 18, 35, 90. I have only done one post with the camera more to come in a month or so. I am also a Nikon guy, and I tried and sold the em5ii. The XT2 is much better.

    1. You must be one of the luckiest photographers I know. Everyone I talk to is desperate to get their hands on the XT2, especially those that have tried one. This is sounding very promissing, especillay if you are comparing with Nikon quality.

      1. I am not one for doing camera reviews. I have been using for several days now, and I like it very much, been stumped a few times, but I do like the camera. I will not be giving up my Nikon nature/landscape gear anytime soon, but for street and urban landscape, I am very impressed. I really like the camera. But I am still not 100% comfortable but that will come. I will talk about it more in my blog.

      2. As soon as I can, I have posts edited and ready to go into November, I will swap one out as soon as I feel comfortable and have some more good shots.

  2. Would be interested in a comparison with your A7r. I have Fuji xt1 and xpro1. Prefer the xpro for handling as I am left eye dominant but both are great. I do miss the look of my d700 and was thinking of a second hand a7r to use with my old Nikkors with adapters. I also tried raw therapee as I am a LR6 user. I confess I have not had too many issues with LR and am happy to stick with it for now as RT is a bit of a learning curve. I have heard that irident are planning a Windows version and will probably give it a try if it appears (assuming I don’t jump ship to apple).

    1. I will see what I can do re the A7r comparison. Gut feel though is that the shadow and highlight recovery is approaching thatof the A7r but that the colours aren’t as good, especially in areas of shadow recovery. The images look equally clean in terms of noise, if not cleaner. This might be the high pixel density on the A7r even though its full frame. I use Canon L series lenses on the A7r so the image quality is excellent into the corners. The Canon lenses have a large image circle which helps. I have to admit though that the autofocus with the adapter is deradful and I use it in manual focus all the time.

      Yes RAW Therapee has a steep learning curve until you relise there are only a few settings you need to adjust and the rest can be set up as a default. I will have to publish soemthing on this at some point.

  3. Re: “I really like the build quality of the lenses, especially the super wide angle 10-24mm. Although there are a couple of lenses in the Micro 43 range that offer similar focal lengths these won’t accept filters due to the front element protruding.”
    The Fuji is effectively 15mm vs. the PanOly’s 14mm in 35mm terms. Panasonic has announced a PanLeica 8-18 (effectively 16-36) f2.8-4 that will accept filters.

  4. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on the RAW file latitude of the more modern Olys (EM5ii, EM10ii, or even the forthcoming EM1ii), and how they stack up against the Fuji.

    There’s also something to be said for maintaining an elegant workflow. Many people talk about the elegant ergonomics of their cameras. At the same time they seem willing to jump back and forth between multiple programs in their workflow, which seems like the opposite of elegant.

    Also, I just moved from Colorado to the Cotswolds area. If there are photo locations you’d recommend, I’m all ears. 🙂

    1. I will see if I can get my hands on some sample RAW files and share thoughts. I never went for the EM5ii as it seemed pretty much like my EM5 with the adition of the high res mode. Personally I can’t see a use for this in the type of photography I do and would find it restrictive. I did consider waiting for the EM1ii especially with the pixel increase but I can’t see it matching the image quality of the XT2 – altough I might be proven wrong.

      In terms of the Cotswolds, I don’t actually know the area very well at all although I have friends in Oxford. Welcome to the UK though and if your from Colorado you won’t mind driving the 100-200 miles to come to North Wales, The Peak District and The Lake District. Those are much more dramatic where the Cotswolds are very gentle and chocolate box like areas. I’m sorry that I can’t be of very much help.

  5. I’ve had my first taste of using a EM5 mk2 in Turkey today and was quite impressed with the outcome of it (it was owned by a German tourist in our hotel) I’ve now found out there’s a EM1 mk2 out very soon! What’s your feelings on the new one? Do you think you would ever pick it up or are you sold on the Fuji system???

    1. I think the EM1ii will be an excellent camera as it the EM5i and ii. The spec looks interesting but the Fuji XT2 and lenses I now have fit my needs very well. I expect I will keep my EM5’s and lenses so I wouldn’t rule out picking up a second hand EM1ii in due course.

  6. For what it’s worth, I have never been impressed by the output from 16MP Fuji cameras, but the 24MP X-Trans III sensor looks like a dramatic step-up. I am not sure it’s better than other contemporary 24MP APS-C sensors (Sony A6300 or Nikon D7200), but at least at this point the sensor would not be a major reason to prevent owning a Fuji, whereas in the past I would have said that it was. Even compared to M4/3, which seems to show better fine detail with slightly more noise (or comparable detail / noise when processed with alternative RAW converters).

    Very curious to see the comparison between the newer sensors in the GH5 / E-M1 II and X-T2, since Fuji got out of the gate with its newest generation a little bit earlier than the rest of the flagships, but all of them will be here to stay for years from now.

    1. I think the latest generation of cameras are all very usable and will perform well. I can’t imagine trading up for a while and suspect the development cycle will slow a little over the next few years. I think a lot of the time now peoples preferances will come down to how the camera handles as well as lens quality and choice. Camera image quality is unlikely to be an issue. I’m really looking forward to testing some of the RAW files.

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