As an enthusiast photographer I chose Fujifilm as my system about a year ago, buying the already out of date but affordable X-E1 camera ($800 with the 18-55mm kit lens). My plan was to upgrade to whatever came out as an update to the X-E2, which I already knew was missing features from the flagship (i.e. expensive) X-T1 that had been announced. Fuji is releasing a new camera, the X-T10, a cheaper but feature-compatible version of the X-T1 without weather sealing, missing the coveted ISO dial and with a smaller EVF (electronic viewfinder). This article is my analysis of the most interesting features of the X-T1 that are new to me as an X-E1 user and the ways they do or don’t apply to the X-T10.
I’ll start with a spoiler alert: I’ve already pre-ordered an X-T10 and am psyched to get my hands on it, so I may be biased and my criticisms of the X-T1 may be sour grapes. That said, I had a really interesting time finally using an X-T1 for a project and I wanted to share my thoughts on what was good and bad about it, and what I’ll miss/won’t miss about it when my X-T10 arrives.
Context: The project was my first serious wedding, done as a gift for a friend. There were 60 attendees, it was in the country so there was lots of nature for portraits and a small, bright naturally-lit indoor venue for ceremony. I had my untrustworthy X-E1, 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit lens and dreamy 35mm f/1.4 prime lens, but I wanted a second body and a little more reach so I rented the X-T1 and 56mm f/1.2 (~100$ Canadian at Lozeau in Montreal).
X-E1: It’s old and missing features
A lot of this is from the perspective of a 1st-generation Fuji X user. The X-E1 and X-PRO1 were updated many times with vital firmware fixes and new features, but they won’t be updated meaningfully again, and are missing pretty much all of the features discussed below. I’m going to keep my X-E1 as a second body and still consider it useful, but I’ll definitely use my X-T10 any time I need decisive autofocus or stealth.
Electronic Shutter: The silencer works
I already wanted a second body as a backup, but the true reason for my rental was the silent “electronic shutter” (ES) on the X-T1 (Firmware announcement). During the ceremony it was a godsend, letting me snap away constantly without distracting the audience with noise. By default the electronic shutter makes a simulated shutter noise with the speaker, so you need to disable all shutter and system sounds if you really want the camera to be silent. I forgot this initially, but once my the sound setting was disabled it worked like I hoped.
When I switched to my X-E1’s mechanical shutter (MS) the difference was deafening. CLACK, CLACK, CLACK, people were turning their heads to look at me as soon as I took a shot. Switched back to X-T1 in ES mode and everyone stayed focused on what was important: My friends getting married!
The worst risk with ES is of course “rolling shutter”, which I’ve read happens any time the movement would normally blur at 1/15s. This is a real problem and it’s important that everyone is careful to avoid using ES on anything with significant movement. In practice though it’s rarely noticeable, even when there is some movement that should look distorted. None of the photos I took at the wedding were ruined by shooting in ES mode, though I tried to explicitly switch to MS mode any time there was fast action, such as the walk down the aisle.
Another downside of ES mode is that flash is completely disabled because it can’t work with an electronic shutter. You need to remember to set the camera to MS any time you want to use a flash.
To me this feature is a no brainer for any candid photography where there isn’t too much movement, and I will never buy a non-silent camera again. Remember that smartphones and point and shoot cameras (i.e. also mirrorless) are all silent by nature too. The mechanical shutter sound is a curse tolerated on DSLRs because the mirror already made noise, but in the mirrorless present we shouldn’t waste the opportunity for quiet, undistracting operation.
MS+ES Auto Mode: Ultra-fast simulated shutter speeds came in handy
Aside from making the camera silent, the electronic shutter also allows you to simulate the exposure effects of super-high shutter speeds, which came in handy during outdoor portraits where there was too much light for the 1/4000 limit of the mechanical shutter. This comes up more often than you’d expect if you’re shooting at f/1.2 in the sun.
To get this effect I usually left the camera on MS+ES mode so that the MS would be used by default, with ES engaged only when the camera needed a shutter speed faster than 1/4000. This is important to avoid “rolling shutter” (discussed above) whenever possible by using MS. For most of my shots ES wasn’t necessary, but when there was too much light the automatic mode worked flawlessly to switch the shutter type. No overexposed shots at 1/4000 from not noticing the problem (common on X-E1) and no getting distracted trying to figure out what’s going on when I bumped up against the limit.
MS+ES auto mode: Thanks for fixing flash!
The new firmware for both X-T1 and X-T10 will make the automatic MS+ES mode even more useful by fixing a bug that blocked you from using flash even if MS was currently in use (most of the time). This meant you had to set the camera to MS-only to use any kind of flash. With the update I’ll be able to leave MS+ES on essentially all the time unless I want ES-only mode, with very little risk unless I’m in direct sunlight.
It will take time to develop instincts about when to use MS/ES/MS+ES, and most importantly when to disable ES temporarily, but my experience was that it was manageable and I didn’t end up with any important shots missed as a result. I had shutter type on a function button which worked fairly well, though the Q menu might work just as efficiently.
You have the electronic shutter as an option on both the X-T1 and the X-T10, so it’s not a big choosing point between them. That said it’s absolutely a knock against the X-E2/X-PRO1 which only have mechanical shutter, in case you were still considering them as options.
Fuji: Please change the effect of the “shutter type” function button!
Right now the Shutter Type control you can assign to a function button works like an ISO or white balance menu would: Click, up/down to choose, click to select. This is absolutely overkill for a menu with only three items. It should instead work like “View Mode”: Click and it switches the next item in the list. That would mean I only need to push 1 button once or twice, rather than needing at least two buttons and needing at least 3 pushes.
FACE DETECTION: Always focus on the nearest eye
Fuji’s face detection system is flawed but extremely useful, and I’ve definitely been missing it on the X-E1. I had it enabled almost constantly and it rarely caused problems. If there are no faces in the shot (details, landscapes, etc) you move the focus point like normal single-point AF, but when there’s a distinct person it locks on and nails focus on their eye even at f/1.2.
The worst case scenario is that it can’t find a face, and you need to move the AF point over your subject’s eye, which you were going to do anyway. Several times while I was picking a focus point because it couldn’t find anyone the face detection eventually found them, I still got precise focus even better than the AF box would have given. It seems it sometimes needs a couple of seconds to catch, but is pretty accurate if given time and good light. Learning how to use this “robot vision” and give it time to work is something I’ll have to practice, but for this wedding it was super helpful.
You can enable/disable Face Detection in the Q menu which has it’s own button, but I also set the front function button on the X-T1 to control Face Detection so I could quickly turn it off. There were a few times I needed to disable it because there were faces in the frame I didn’t want to focus on or it detected faces in things like curtains.
While face detection alone wouldn’t have justified the rental, it was a priceless feature to integrate. I’m really excited Fuji is continuing to innovate on this feature and take it seriously with the new firmware. Fast, precise eye-detection AF is a vital feature for users of ultra-fast primes like Fuji specializes in.
Fuji: Please fix the Face Detection function button too!
The criticism of the shutter button applies in the exact same way to Face Detection, which should just switch the feature on/off rather than pulling up an awful up/down menu with only two options. If they made it work like View Mode it would only require 1 click on 1 button in all situations, rather than 3 clicks on at least 2 buttons.
Fuji: Face Detection needs an escape hatch
If I want to keep face detection enabled all the time (I do) I need a way to disable it temporarily for a specific face it finds, without turning it off completely. There should be a button that cancels the currently targeted face and lets you choose a focus point.
E.g. You’re framing a shot of something in someone’s hand, but face detect focuses on their face in the background. Hit a button (focus assist?) and the box dissappears, returning to the single AF point that would show if there was no face (currently you’d have to disable face detection completely and re-enable it after).
Fuji: Let me pick the face I want
Another thing that’s direly needed is a way to switch the “dominant” face in the shot (MUCH more than we need to pick left/right eye as was added in the new firmware). Currently it picks one face (based on centrality according to the manual) and you are stuck with either focusing on that face or turning off Face Detection completely. This is a huge bummer, because the camera already knows there are many faces (non-dominant ones are shown in a white box) but has no way to let you choose which to focus on. Some mechanic to cycle between the various faces would be extremely useful (I keep thinking of how the tab key works in Word of Warcraft to cycle between enemies). Obviously a touch screen would be ideal, but even without it there must be a button that could cycle between faces and let you pick the most appropriate for your composition and depth of field. Why not the left/right arrows on the D-pad?
Fuji: Show me whether the other faces are in focus too
In group portraits I was dying for a way to know whether the non-dominant faces were also in focus or not. My goal when using shallow DoF is to get the eyes all lined up, line myself up with that plane, then focus on one person so everyone is sharp. As-is all the non-dominant faces are surrounded by a white box no matter what, so there’s no way of knowing whether I’m aligned with the group. It would be great if there were three colors: Green for dominant-focused, white for non-dominant-also-focused and red for out-of-focus. This would let me rotate myself until there was no red before firing and not end up surprised by one blurry face when I get home.
Now we’re getting into differences between X-T1 and X-T10, because the spot/auto/full metering dial is among the features “missing” on the X-T10. In summary this dial is useless. I didn’t really need to change the metering mode over the course of the weekend and when I did (heavy backlighting) it didn’t solve my problem and Exp. Comp. was faster and more effective.
The dial itself is cool to look at, but surprisingly hard to manipulate in the intended way. The tiny nub at the front got “stuck” in the left position (spot metering) and I had to fuss with it to get it back to auto, making me not want to use it too often.
Of course it DID move a lot when bringing my camera in and out of my bag, which was obnoxious and resulted in me being confused about how dark my shots were coming out at one point.
Final verdict: Anyone who loves this dial please say so, otherwise Fuji should find another setting to create a hardware switch for. Personally I’d have WAY more use for an AF type (single/zone), Face Detection or Shutter type switch than this photometry one. As-is, this dial is a reason NOT to get an X-T1 since it’s a useless liability (to me at least).
Like most others I was fascinated by the ISO dial when the X-T1 came out. It felt like the final frontier of manual control, and I was worried I’d miss it if I bought a camera without it (i.e the X-PRO2 who’s format seems like it wouldn’t have space). Having used it my heart has grown cold. I don’t think it’s necessary and was fine with Auto-ISO over the course of the weekend.
The real problem is that Fuji’s Auto-ISO implementation is so good that the dial isn’t necessary. There’s no “creative” reason to select a particular ISO (unlike shutter speed and aperture) so there’s no real reason to choose a specific value as the dial implies you should.
I set the minimums/maximums for the auto system and just pay attention to whether the camera is able to use them or not. For me a switch that just said “base ISO” and “auto ISO” would work just as well and take up a lot less space/visual clutter than the current dial on the X-T1. Alternately a nub-style dial with just “auto1″ “auto2″ and “auto3″ would completely solve my ISO needs.
Maybe others will dissagree, but I bet a lot of people who lusted for the ISO dial now basically ignore it. I for one won’t waste any tears crying over it’s absence on the X-T10.
Fuji: All we need to be completely rid of ISO dials is a couple more tweaks to the auto ISO settings. Specifically the ability to indicate a target aperture the same way we designate a desired shutter speed. I often want “Max ISO 6400, Minimum 1/100s, Wide open aperture”, but when there’s enough light for ISO 200 I am left with the camera raising the aperture to f/4 without raising the shutter speed to 1/4000 first. I know I can use the manual aperture for this, but it would be good if there was an option to integrate that decision into the full automatic logic.
Unlike the ISO dial on the X-T1 the drive dial was extremely useful. On my X-E1 changing drive modes is a shockingly byzantine experience, especially the way CH and CL are so hard to get to. Having the little nub dial was a huge improvement, both because it was easy to change and because it was easy to look at the camera and see what setting was active.
For this feature the X-T1 and X-T10 are roughly equivalent since both have a drive dial, but if anything I’d give the advantage to the X-T10. To me the drive dial is more valuable than the ISO dial and I’d rather have it as a full milled metal wheel rather than the nub system. On the X-T10 the drive mode is visible when looking down (along with aperture, shutter and Exp. Comp.) and I can turn it precisely with two fingers rather than shifting the nub with just one finger. That last part is a mixed bag since changing it with one finger is also a valuable option, but I don’t need to turn the dial that often (compared to say exp. comp.) so the big wheel will work fine. The big wheel also lets it hold more options (9 rather than 7) without being any more finicky which is a bonus.
Overall the X-T10 has 2 fewer dials than the X-T1, but as it stands I won’t miss either of them. The nub dials for photometry and drive mode end up being overkill for my purposes, and though it might not scream “professional” compared to the complexity of the X-T1, the simplicity of the top plate of the X-T10 is more beautiful IMHO, and at the end of the day removing useless dials means reducing the number of issues I have from dials moving when I take the camera in and out of bags (of which the aperture dial on lenses will always give me enough surprises to keep life interesting).
Another major difference between the X-T1 and X-T10 is how the command dials and buttons work in relation to each other, which is explained by Fuji as resulting from the X-T1’s weather sealing. I’ll start by saying that obviously if you NEED the weather sealing then this is a non-issue: You need the X-T1 and it doesn’t matter how “mushy” or hard to use the buttons are. Fuji had to make concessions and you get a lot in return for the awkward buttons.
That said: I hate the buttons on the X-T1. I hate how recessed the directional pad buttons are, I could barely find the focus-assist/Q buttons without looking and the command dials were mushy and hard to spin if my hands were even a tiny bit sweaty. It makes sense that I felt like I was wearing rubber gloves (both keep out water) but it was not a good feeling at all.
Now of course, I haven’t tried the X-T10 buttons yet, but from what I’ve read they feel and work just like on the X-E1, and I LOVE those buttons compared to what the X-T1 has. The command dials especially were disappointing on the X-T1, because they don’t have the function buttons integrated into them which means you need to learn two extra “positions” for your fingers to take and you are that much more likely to have to use multiple positions to get something done. On the X-T10 you can click the dial, spin it to choose an option and click again to confirm, changing a setting with only one finger and without moving your hand. This is how it should be.
IMHO the extra buttons also make the camera a little uglier/noisier to look at because there are extra buttons visible. Sure more buttons is usually good and makes the camera look cool, but for me invisible tools are pretty much always more valuable than ones that take up extra space (and they could still have those extra buttons if they wanted, giving you even more shortcuts). I also found the front button in particular to be frustrating because I would press it when I didn’t mean to, especially when I was looking at the LCD and changing settings. I would surely get used to it eventually, but I would never push the command dial by accident on the X-T10.
Hopefully this was a temporary setback and Fuji can figure out how to make clicky buttons and a weather sealed dial that has an integrated button for the X-T2. For now this is definitely a knock against the usability of the X-T1 that makes me glad I’m getting an X-T10 instead.
BONUS: SR AUTO SWITCH
I consider this one a “bonus” because I didn’t actually get to try it, but since it’s missing on the X-T1 and I’m excited about it as a feature of X-T10 I figured I’d mention it. The full auto switch seems like a really smart idea to me that will help both hardcore professionals and hardcore amateurs.
For amateurs the appeal is obvious: Use that lever and you don’t have to learn about photography or your own camera, only disabling it when you have time to ponder the unknowable mysteries of the exposure square and focus points.
For pros the appeal is more nuanced, but I think very important and multi-faceted. For starters there’s the obvious use case of handing off the camera to a noob. In that situation other Fuji’s are ridiculously complicated to hand over, requiring potentially several dial/knob turns and a trip through the menus to set AF to something simple (anyone else tired of trying to get people to put the box over your face?). The new auto switch means you’ll be able to hand off the camera after a single change AND you can immediately change it back to your manual settings after, rather than having to remember/re-create them once you get the camera back. I’m really excited about having full auto work like this, especially now that the face detection/zone focus modes are powerful enough that it will work “like a smartphone” and help noobs get the pictures they expect.
To me though there’s a whole other appeal, which is that it gives you a way to have a second “save state” for all your settings, which is notably missing from Fuji cameras. Sure you can use the “Custom settings” system in the Q menu, but that thing is garbage, only letting you save the stupid JPEG related settings and ignoring everything important (af mode, shutter mode, face detect, timer). I find that Custom settings feature on my X-E1 messes me up by accident more than it helps me, and I’ll probably remove it once I have a camera that lets me customize the Q menu.
On the other hand this new SR Auto switch won’t let you have a CUSTOMIZEABLE set of saved settings, but because it changes all settings to their most automatic format it can completely change the behavior of the camera in an instant without losing the work you put into the current setup. I can imagine this being extremely useful when I’m doing very precise work with the camera but have an intermittent need for more general shooting.
E.g. While shooting macro I have everything on manual to make the flash work, I have a lot of settings configured in ways that make normal shooting impossible. If I suddenly see a deer with the X-T1 I might need to change a lot of config to get a shot of it, but with the SR Auto switch I could get a shot in seconds, then revert back to my elaborate macro configuration just as fast. Similar situations would come up any time you’re using manual flash or when you’re switching back and forth between two lenses (e.g. f/4->f/1.2) where one type of shooting can function on auto but the other requires special configuration.
Finally I’m excited about the SR Auto switch because if everything else about the camera is set to auto already (auto ISO, shutter, and aperture, how I usually use my X-E1) it will act as a super-fast switch for Face Detection/Zone AF, letting me use SR Auto to let the camera try to guess the AF point and disabling it to use the D-Pad instead. I’ll have to wait and see how often this comes up, but I’m guessing there are a lot of situations where it will be useful (as long as the actual “scene recognition” doesn’t get in the way and overdo it, though no one has complained about that yet).
FUJI: For bonus points make the auto switch configurable, and give us a few more options! Would love if you could choose it’s effect from a list like this:
- Enable/disable SR auto
- Enable/disable Face Detection
- Enable/Disable Zone Focusing
- Enable/Disable MS+ES auto mode.
If it was that configurable I bet a lot of “pros” would be dying for a similar switch on the X-T1
CONCLUSION: I WANT MY X-T10 NOW PLEASE!
There you have it, tons of detail that adds up to “both cameras are great” and “X-T10 is an easy choice for me.” If I needed weather sealing I would get the X-T1 of course, but I might just keep it as a second body for bad weather and sports. For almost all types of shooting I do the X-T10 would be just as capable and ergonomically more appropriate, in addition to being much much cheaper
P.S. I didn’t talk about buffer rates, in which context X-T1 easily comes out ahead. If you need 8FPS for dozens of shots then you need the X-T1. Personally I never want to deal with all those RAW files, so CL is fast enough and from what I understand the X-T10 will do fine at that rate.
P.P.S. The other significant difference I didn’t talk about is the picture-in-picture focus aid mode, which is awesome and only exists on the X-T1 because the X-T10 has a smaller viewfinder. I didn’t use this very much but will indeed miss it on the X-T10 since it strikes me as the best manual focus solution. That said focus peaking will still work great and having a non-mushy focus-zoom button on the command dial is just as valuable to me