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06-14-2016, 05:35 PM - 4 Likes   #1
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Fuji X-T1 experiences

Recently I went through an obsessive round of shopping for my next "serious" system camera (after a fling with Olympus), and it boiled down to Pentax or Fujifilm. This ultimately led to buying a brand new Pentax K-S2 and a used (and slightly scuffed, with a few things missing) Fuji X-T1.

It took me a while to wrap my head around the X-T1 lens catalog, which is structured very differently from the Pentax line-up, and also to get over the sticker shock. The used X-T1 cost more than the brand new K-S2, and it's pretty much the same story when it comes to lenses. Thus, I started with an adapter, a "Lens Turbo" focal reducer, so I could use my older K-mount lenses on the Fuji. That worked, but the optics in the adapter weren't great, and I found out I'm not the hot-shot manual focuser I thought I was, and I soon realized I needed some native lenses to properly evaluate the X-T1. First I ordered a 35mm F2, which should be the everyday workhorse lens for this system, but it's out of stock everywhere. I'm still waiting on that.

So, I gritted my teeth and ordered the very pricey 16mm F1.4 and the 90mm F2. Incidentally, I went for a zoom set on the Pentax and a prime set on the Fuji. I didn't plan it that way originally, but a few factors pushed me in that direction. Fuji have super high quality primes that many have bragged on, so that attracted me. At the same time, the Pentax 20-40mm Limited seemed like a must-have for the K-S2, and then the 10-17mm Fisheye seemed like a must-have, and then the telephoto Limiteds didn't seem telephoto enough, whereas a 50-200mm zoom would fit into my bag easily. . .

When I finally got the Fujinon 16mm and 90mm, I got a surprise. I'd looked at the specs online, but holding them in my hands was another thing, and I suddenly realized just how big and heavy these lenses are. I mean, they're not giants, but they are considerably bigger than my old film SLR lenses, and fitting this kit into my little ONA Bowery bag suddenly seemed a lot less plausible.

Amusingly, the small and lightweight X-T1 with the porky 90mm lens mounted is almost exactly the same size and weight as the porky K-S2 with the small and lightweight 50-200mm lens. And either of them easily outweighs my entire Q7 Premium Kit bag with the body and five lenses inside!

From a distance the X-T1 looks perfect. When I started using it, I quickly found the annoying little quirks. The SD card door on the Fuji is flimsy and opens too easily. The buttons are flush and often difficult to push. The aperture ring on the 16mm lens turns too easily. I shot several photos yesterday that I thought were good, only to find that they were all at F16 -- in dim light! -- because the ring had been bumped off its A setting. Today I had a few moments of not understanding why the camera wouldn't work, until I saw I'd bumped the drive mode into multiple exposure. And then there's the exposure compensation dial. . . yeah.

And the viewfinder, the big and beautiful EVF which so many have praised, and it's a technological wonder -- right up until I needed to use it outdoors in bright sunlight. Then I was cussing, "I can't see a @#$% thing!" I dug into the menus and dialed up the EVF brightness to the maximum, then it was usable -- though still somewhat dim and ugly.

So, now I'm thinking this was a costly mistake. The Pentax is so much less troublesome, so robust and easy to operate than this contraption. Then I got home and loaded the photos into Lightroom. And I looked. . . And when it comes to image quality, the Fuji slays. It murdered the K-S2. Colors were natural, contrast was good, and the sharpness and clarity were like looking through a window.

Just to be sure, I went out and shot some test images with both cameras, with the Fuji 90mm and the Pentax 50-200mm, and the Fuji again walked all over the Pentax. However, I looked closely and concluded that the Pentax just might be flubbing the focus. I thought I'd fine-tuned that lens successfully, but I may not have dialed in enough compensation. So, I went back and shot another series of test photos, this time using live view on the Pentax. Using contrast-detection autofocus on the sensor should be the most accurate, right? And indeed, these photos were much improved. The difference between the Fuji and Pentax was much reduced -- but the Fuji still won.

And some of you will say, "Duh! You're comparing a cheap-and-slow zoom against a high-priced, fast prime." It's true. This is a battle of lenses, not camera bodies, and the big, heavy, costly prime lens won the battle. Thank you, Captain Obvious. But Pentax doesn't make a lens like this! It's not an option for the K-S2.

A much more fair, and more interesting, comparison will be when I get the Fuji 35mm and can test it against the 20-40mm Limited. Those lenses are closer in price and closer to filling the same role, albeit with different strategies. What's really nagging me now about the K-S2, though, isn't my selection of lenses. What's really nagging me is the difficulty getting autofocus through the viewfinder tuned up correctly. As we've moved to higher and higher megapixel counts, and expectations (and demands!) for sharpness have gone up and up, it seems like accurate focus has become more of a problem for DSLRs, and it's one that just doesn't arise with mirrorless cameras.

06-14-2016, 05:47 PM   #2
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You might like the DA70, or the FA77, they should give the Fuji 90 a better contest. Good luck with the comparisons. Oddly I've had several 50-200s and in every case the DAL-WR copies were better than the DAs and DA-WRs. Kit zooms aren't inherently awful, I feel they just save money by relaxing the quality control - so your 50-200 might not be a good match for any body, sad to say..
06-14-2016, 06:07 PM   #3
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Thanks for your post - it's good to read real-world experiences, especially as Fuji are about to announce the X-T2 (and possibly an 85mm-ish 1:1 macro by the end of the year). BTW, if you shoot JPGs on Pentax, did you try the natural color profile? I use that with slightly bumped up Saturation, Contrast and Sharpness and am fairly happy with the results, though everyone seems to agree Fuji's JPG engine is hard to beat...
06-14-2016, 06:19 PM   #4
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Cool post! I was looking at the Fuji system some time ago, but decided to stick purely to Pentax. Pentax really has an advantage over many others - usability. Buttons are sensible, Menu is not cluttered, cameras are compact but offer high quality imaging sensor.
Fuji has really cool lenses and x-trans technology, but it has its drawbacks as well

06-14-2016, 06:31 PM   #5
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I would suggest that Fuji has a reputation for exceptional jpgs. I would suggest getting some small primes for the ks2 and see what you think then. I would suggest the da 15 or da 14 and the DFA 100 f2.8, FA 77 f1.8, or da 70 f2.4 as comparison lenses. I would lean towards the da15 and da 70 for size.
06-14-2016, 06:44 PM   #6
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Great write up. I actually enjoyed reading it.

I've been on the fence about a smaller system. IMO, the fuji system was the one to beat for total package. IQ and size. However, if size was my primary concern, Olympus or Panasonic would be it. Downsides, I understand Panasonic sealing is hit or miss. Olympus ergonomics are crap. Fuji on the other hand is just way too expensive. Granted, had I sold my pentax gear and started over with fuji, I probably could have built a nice system under $2500. I've since spent about $1500+ upgrading my Pentax system. So, the cost is quite similar for high end lenses and flagship bodies. Coincidentally the camera/lens combo size is something I also noticed. Pentax actually can give a slightly smaller camera lens combo in the right situation than even a mirrorless competitor. They can't, however, be smaller than Olympus or Panasonic. But the IQ of of a 4/3 system isn't going to be as good as Fuji or Pentax. So, like has always been the case, it's a tradeoff.

Now, on to where your test are failing. Comparing the 50-200 to a high end prime is just not fair. I'd recommend buying a FA 77mm or a DA 70mm for comparison or even a DFA 100mm. All three of those lenses are outstanding, with the later two being perhaps a little bit better than the FA 77 (though, that's subjective) and more affordable and smaller than the fuji alternative.

I think you'd probably be very happy with the DA70 or DFA 100 on a K-S2 vs the fuji. Give it a go and get back to us!
06-14-2016, 06:53 PM   #7
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I'm just in the process of selling my Fuji kit. Nothing wrong with the gear, but I bought a K-1 and I just can't see myself using the Fuji again.

Anyway, initially I had the same issue as you had with the viewfinder, but at some point it went away. I'm not sure what setting I adjusted.

The 35/1.4 is the lens that brought me into the Fuji world. It is a wonderful lens and was a perfect mate for the X-Pro1, which was my first Fuji body. I believe the 35/2 is nearly as good.

If the 4 way buttons seem overly recessed, the first run of the X-T1 did have an issue with that. I sent mine in for it, Fuji replaced the 4 way under warranty and it was much better.

I did find the aperture rings moved far too easily, to the point I generally just shot in aperture preferred auto. That solved many problems.

When I bought into Fuji, I was using a K5 from Pentax, and the first thing I noticed was that for the VERY FIRST TIME, I had an autofocus system that actually focused.
06-14-2016, 10:19 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Tony Belding Quote
.... Just to be sure, I went out and shot some test images with both cameras, with the Fuji 90mm and the Pentax 50-200mm, and the Fuji again walked all over the Pentax. However, I looked closely and concluded that the Pentax just might be flubbing the focus. I thought I'd fine-tuned that lens successfully, but I may not have dialed in enough compensation. So, I went back and shot another series of test photos, this time using live view on the Pentax. Using contrast-detection autofocus on the sensor should be the most accurate, right? And indeed, these photos were much improved. The difference between the Fuji and Pentax was much reduced -- but the Fuji still won....
QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
....When I bought into Fuji, I was using a K5 from Pentax, and the first thing I noticed was that for the VERY FIRST TIME, I had an autofocus system that actually focused.
Are both of you using a fairly thin DOF?

06-14-2016, 10:38 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mountain Vision Quote
I think you'd probably be very happy with the DA70 or DFA 100 on a K-S2 vs the fuji. Give it a go and get back to us!
I feel like the 90mm is, if anything, not as long as I'd prefer. So, the DA70 doesn't seem like the right direction. The DFA 100. . . is intriguing. And it's a macro, right? That could be nice to have. What worries me there, though, is the question of autofocus speed and accuracy, especially since it doesn't have a macro focus limiter. The Fuji 90mm has a linear motor and focuses very quickly.
06-15-2016, 01:53 AM   #10
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Tony, thanks for the enjoyable post. It's great to read someone's impartial experiences. A few comments:

- Pentax's JPEG engine isn't all that great, in my opinion. It's not bad, per se, but Fuji certainly does JPEG better; to get the best out of the K-S2, I personally feel you need to shoot raw and post process in something like Lightroom
- the DA50-200 lens has its fans, but I'm not one of them... despite careful AF fine adjustment, I never got results I was very pleased with from mine (even at f/8 - f/11 which is its sweet-spot area), and I sold it some time ago
- when you test the Fuji 35 against your DA20-40, stop both down to f/8 - this is where the DA20-40 performs best
- the DA70 is a superb lens; maybe a little shorter than you would like, but if you can borrow one or try one at the store, give it a go... it's very good wide open, and at f/5.6 it is remarkable
- the DFA100 is a great lens - and AF accuracy is no problem - but AF can be slow, racking back and forth; you really need to preset it to the general area if you want fast target acquisition
- how about a Sigma 85mm f/1.4 for Pentax? I've never owned one but the reviews suggest it is a sterling performer
- did I mention that Pentax's JPEG engine isn't the best and you really need to shoot raw to get the best from the K-S2?

If you have any comparison test images you're willing to share, including 100% crops, I'd love to see them.

Thanks again
06-15-2016, 02:51 AM   #11
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Thank you for sharing.

Fuji always felt a little expensive for what it was, but they certainly have nice lenses. I definitely would look at some of the Pentax primes out there. the DFA 100 is quite nice and relatively cheap and maybe throw in the DA 50 f1.8 for good measure. It is just tough to compare a consumer zoom like the 50-200 to primes from any system.

Edit: I guess I would echo the comments about RAW shooting. I think if you shoot RAW, you won't see a big difference. If you shoot jpeg, then Fuji has one of the best jpeg engines on the market and you'll see better results right out of camera.

Last edited by Rondec; 06-15-2016 at 05:33 AM.
06-15-2016, 03:03 AM   #12
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Nice post. I am also keeping an eye on Fuji, I am just waiting for them to release that XF 23/2 as an interchangeable lens (I find the XF23/1.4 to big for my use) and I think I can switch as I like their JPEGs and B & W conversions.
06-15-2016, 05:37 AM   #13
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DFA can be slow to focus due to the long focus throw. It is noisy as well. DA* 50-135 is probably the best option to compare against the 90 - but the 50-135 can be slow to focus but the image quality is pretty amazing.
06-15-2016, 05:49 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mountain Vision Quote
However, if size was my primary concern, Olympus or Panasonic would be it.
If size is your primary concern, the Pentax Q7/Q-S1 rules the roost. Sensible menus, dependable autofocus and DNG format are some other advantages it holds over Olympus.

Granted, my Q7 struggles in dim light (unless I use flash), and it can be difficult to use in bright sunlight (unless I use a loupe), and achieving "subject isolation" requires some dubious tricks. Even so, I've enjoyed learning how to squeeze the maximum out of it, and it's the last camera I'd consider giving up.
06-15-2016, 06:09 AM   #15
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I owned the X-T1 and sold it because it was simply too expensive for what it could do. Honestly, a $600 entry level DSLR takes as good, or better, photos as the $1300 X-T1. An optical viewfinder far outperforms any EVF. Always will. The EVF is great for showing you what the final image will look like and displaying information, but it lags considerably.

The Fuji cameras are nice but vastly overpriced. They're trying to position themselves as the jewels of Japanese camera design. They may be. But they're more a status symbol because of their high price. They bring nothing new to the final image.
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