Fuji X-System – REPORT CARD – One Year In

6 years, 6 months ago 44

Since I get constant questions about my decision to use the Fuji X-System as my everyday, go to camera kit, I thought it was time to give Fuji a Report Card!

 

Before you can give a grade you must set a standard, so here is my NEEDS emphasis, “my” NEEDS:

 

1. My carry, everyday, virtually everything system must be:  Smaller & and Lighter than the  Nikon FX/DX system I was using.

 

2.  State of the Art Performance.  I did not want to sacrifice what I could get from my Nikon system to save weight. (Though I had no choice, the weight savings was mandatory.)  Color, Sharpness, Noise, Build Quality.

 

3.  Build Quality has always been imperative to me, the bodies and lenses of the new system had to measure up to my 44 year experience with my Nikon gear.

 

4.  Frankly, Affordability was a factor.

 

So let’s break it down and give a score.  I will use the 5 Star System.

 

Weight Savings:  5 Stars   The full Fuji System is less than half the weight of a the same system in Nikon.  Bodies and lenses are also less than half the size, making packing in camera bags easier.

 

PERFORMANCE

 

COLOR QUALITY:  5 Stars *

* Fuji color closely matches the personality of their films, if you loved Fuji films; Velvia, Provia, Astia, you will love the Fuji digital rendition of color, if not, not so much.  I love Fuji color, so it works for me.

 

SHARPNESS:  5+ Stars *

Sharpness is a factor of the sensor, the file processing in-camera software, and the lenses.  The Fuji X-Trans Sensor combined with no Optical Low Pass Filter and their proprietary file processing, yields the sharpest images I have ever recorded in a 45 year career, PERIOD.  I own the Fuji 14mm, 10-24, 23mm, 35mm, 60mm Micro, 56mm, 18-55, and the 55-200 lenses,  (keep in mind that since the Fuji X-System is an APS-C size sensor camera these focal length are effectively 1.5 times longer).  While I had many 5 Star Nikkor lenses, all of my Fuji lens have been “at least” 5 Stars! Enough said!  O.K. not quite enough, the D800 was and is the most serious high resolution camera I have ever used, nothing is quite like those files, but it and it’s lenses are too heavy for me!  Truthfully the Fuji system has all the resolution I need.

 

NOISE:  5+ Stars *

In spite of the ridiculous results of the Popular Photo test, last month, the Fuji X-System cameras, (I own four; X-T1, X-E2, X100s, and the original X-Pro 1), are among the very lowest noise producing cameras at High ISO I have ever used.  I regularly shoot at ISO 3200 with no fear of noise, when I absolutely must I shoot 6400 I only have to do minor noise reduction processing.  The Fuji cameras are very, very low noise.  Combined with superlative fast single focal length lenses, the Fuji system is the best low light system I have ever used.

 

 

LASTING BUILD QUALITY:  5 Stars  * We are only one year in, time will tell.

O.K., this one is purely subjective since I have no way of testing metal, and I’m not an expert on camera design.  I can say that the design that Fuji chose for the X-System fits my comfort level perfectly.  The retro design, going away from buttons and wheels, to aperture rings on the lenses, and knobs that adjust shutter speed, ISO, and exposure compensation, are very comfortable for this baby boomer.  I have dropped several bodies and lenses with no harm whatsoever, but can’t say a anything more than they sure seem tough enough to me.

 

RESULTS:  5 Stars +

This also falls in the area of subjective response, but here goes;  In  the 45th year of a photography career I have never been happier with the equipment I’m using, the joy of shooting with it, the fun instilled by the gear, and the resulting images! I can’t make it any clearer than that…(samples to follow!)

 

AFFORDABILITY:  5 Stars +++ *

When I started my search for the new; smaller, lighter system I took all the things above into consideration, it was a long search.  I looked at Panasonic & Olympus, and liked them both, but the 4/3rds size sensor fell down at very high ISO and the noise was just not what I wanted.  I considered, (for just a moment) Leica, but there was not much of weight savings in the bodies and the cost was astronomical.  A one body system, (M240) and lenses from 16mm to 135mm had a price tag of $36,500.!!!!!!!  My entire Fuji System that includes four cameras, and 8 lenses that range from 15mm to 300mm and my total cost has been around $11,000.  The Leica is a wonderful instrument and has a full frame sensor, but the long end of their lenses stops at 135mm which is well short of my needs. Since I do not own or have not shot Leica in a long time, since the film days, I can’t say if the technical quality is truly superior, I can say that the cost of the system makes it out of my range, which is also why I do not own a Ferrari!

 

IN CONCLUSION:

I started over a year ago looking for the cameras and lenses that would carry me for the rest of this journey of being a photographer.  I am satisfied that I have found that system.

 

Is it perfect?  No.

What I would like to see?:

 

Firmware changes that make +or- exposure bracketing of at least 7 stops, 9 would be fantastic.

 

I would like a way to set the self timer and it not go off until you change it.  * I use the 2 second timer as a cable release many times.

 

We are getting a 24-85 f 2.8 equiv., 75-210 f 2.8 equiv lenses later this year, if they are not too large, I will own both.

 

A promised long zoom is coming and the “rumor” is sit will bye a 120-400, that would be an equiv. 180-600!!!  “If” it is a constant f4 with OIS, I’m going to have to own it!!!!  If I can afford it!  That is what I call a trunk lens.  It lives in the trunk until you need it!

 

Things I like very much about Fuji, the company:

 

They listen to the users, and bring our products that the users are asking for.

 

When they have a problem, (and all companies have problems!), they admit it and fix it immediately!

 

Fuji understand that the followers of the X System demand quality bodies, and superior lenses, and that is all they have produced so far, and I believe that they will hold that standard,  I think it is in their DNA.

 

FINAL THOUGHT:

Fuji seems to be feeling pressure to bring out a full frame sensor system.  That would require another entire line of lenses and increase weight and size. Selfishly I hope they don’t, I think they make a near perfect system now, and I want their attention fully on the current system, but what will be will be!!!  I’m a happy camper because they have given us what we have now!

 

Some of my favorite images from the Fuji System:

 

Fuji X-E1 and 60mm Micro

 

Fuji X-E1 with 18-55 lens  –  1:1 format,  center 12mega pixels of sensor

 

Fuji X100s camera set for monochrome.

 

Fuji X-E2 with 18-55 lens  ISO 3200

 

Fuji X-E2 with the 18-55  1:1 format

 

Fuji X-T1 with the 55-200 and the Nikon 5T Diopter  ISO 6400!!!!!!   No noise reduction has been applied to this file!!!!

 

Fuji X-T1 with the 18-55  –  ISO 400

 

Fuji X-T1 with the 18-55  –  ISO 400

 

Fuji X-T1 with 10-24   –  ISO 400

 

Fuji X-T-1 with the 18-55 processed in Topaz Adjust Spicify

 

Fuji X-T1 with the 18-55  –  ISO 3200

 

Fuji X-T1 with the 55-200  –  ISO 400

 

Fuji X-T1 with the 60mm Micro

 

Fuji X100s ISO 1600

 

Fuji X-E2 with the 18-55

 

Be blessed, I am,

 

the pilgrim

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

44 Responses

  1. Rodney McKnight says:

    Hey Bill,
    I have been following this journey closely. Thanks for all the research! I have completely switched over to this system also and I LOVE the weight advantage – not just with the camera and lenses, but also things like being able to use a smaller tripod. I LOVE the images. I LOVE the color, I LOVE the sharpness. I get many sharp pictures now handheld where (for me) sharpness handheld with my Nikon gear was difficult (at least for me). And more importantly to me, I am once again ENJOYING shooting! I never enjoyed lugging that Nikon gear around and many times I would just leave it at home. I take my T1 and a lens or two with me everywhere. Thanks brother!!

    Rodney

  2. Jorge says:

    Bill,
    As always: AMAZING images! In your honest assessment what is the largest print I can make from a Fuji File?

    I’m headed on a week long shoot and am wondering if I should pack my X-T1 and leave my D800 at home. I shoot for both myself, and for stock images.

    Best,
    Jorge

  3. the pilgrim says:

    I’ve made 4X6 feet!

  4. Leroy Wiley says:

    I can only echo your experience, Bill. I’ve had the X-E1 and the X-T1 since they came out and could not be happier. One of the things I like the most relates to how clean the files are – I like that I can edit them without paying a noise penalty, just like my D800 images.

    One thing I was curious about from your wish list. When I set the 2 second delay on my X-E1 it stays on until I power off the camera. I’m pretty sure the X-T1 works the same way. Do you mean that you would like the delay to stay on even when the camera is power is cycled off and on?

    Love the article and gallery!

    cheers, Leroy

    • the pilgrim says:

      Thanks Leroy, and yes when I go into the Q (quick) menus and set the self timer for 2 seconds it stays on. When you shoot several images in a row, but if you don’t shoot fora minute or so it reverts to off!!!!???? Have you found a fix???

      • Leroy Wiley says:

        I hadn’t noticed that, but you’re right. If the camera goes to sleep it will forget the delay setting, as if it were turned off. I’m with you, it would be better if it remembered the delay setting through a sleep cycle and through a power off.

        At least it works better than the V1 where you must reselect the delay for every shot.

  5. Rodney says:

    I look forward to the two new lenses you mentioned (so glad to hear they are coming out with these two): the 24-85 and 75-210. By that time maybe they’ll have come out with an X-Pro 2 and an X-T2 and then I”ll seriously consider dumping my 5D. Thanks for continuing to share this journey with us.

  6. Bill, as you “talked me into” buying the Fuji system, I have to say that I have not regretted it. My ratings are a bit more conservative than your, however, because I believe there is room for improvement. The size and issue is a bit more problematic for me — I went from my delightful Canon gear (the venerable 7D is such a competent camera that its more expensive big brother sat on a shelf) to playing with the Nikon 1 V1. The latter has a lot of promise (though not reflected in the V3 abortion with build quality and some features inferior to the V1) and I spent a year working the daylights out of a couple of V1 bodies with another as a spare. Subject to its limitations the V1 produced good images at a significant size and weight savings. The wireless remote (you can even get one for $10 at Target) is a plus. The lens quality vs. size was surprising. I went “about as fer you kin go” however in terms of image quality and noise. Clearly Nikon dropped the ball and its commitment to mirrorless is schizophrenic at best. Much the same can be said for Canon though I wonder if Canon is waiting to “get it (or as much of “it” as possible) right” before updating its meager mirrorless line (the EOS M II isn’t even available in the U.S.). But that a huge “if” at this point.

    I now own the X-E2 with an X-E1 for backup along with the 18-55, 55-200 and 60mm lenses and an EF-20 flash unit along with L-brackets for the camera bodies and a bunch of old-fashioned threaded cable releases (which I believe won’t work on the X-T1). While smaller and lighter than Canon DSLR gear (the 7D with grip is very substantial) it’s quite a bit heavier and bigger than the Nikon V1. The tradeoff, of course, is improved image quality and much, much less noise. All of this gear and a MacBook air fits in an old Tamrac 636 messenger bag which, sadly, is no longer available. The bag is heavier than I’d like but literally holds everything I need and has no room for another lens so my system is complete.

    I am going to “ding” your image quality assessment down to 3 1/2 stars but only because of the freakily garish skin tones, even in RAW. I don’t shoot “people pictures” much but Fuji really needs to fix this.

    I would rate “user friendliness” at 3 1/2 stars as well. The user manual is poorly written. For the era we are in perhaps a DVD would help. The “retro” style may appeal to some but I’ve been shooting digital since 2001. I learned how to drive stick and did so up until, coincidentally, 2001. If I wanted to go back to stick, I would. The “retro” is actually a bunch of compromises, including inadequate exposure compensation and bracketing, as you noted. I think of it like JFK’s assessment of Washington: a mixture of northern charm and southern efficiency. The lack of wireless remote on the X-E1 and X-E2 is bizarre and the smartphone solution for the X-T1 seems esoteric but may not always be practical. Again, not bad but sometimes you have to wonder, “WTF?” (What the Fuji?) 16.3 megapixels isn’t bad but lags behind Sony but Fuji’s image quality nonetheless appears better. The Canon people are correct when they note that the quality of the “megapickels” is more important than the number.

    Part of that “ding” is also the problem with keeping the damn sensor clean. I kept the 18-55 on the X-E2 since day one to avoid sensor dust but recently a problem surfaced which I suspect was residual oil from manufacturing. A Sensor Swab and Eclipse fixed it but that’s a pricey and inconvenient solution. The ultrasonic sensor cleaning seems useless. The X-E1 was worse. Went through three or four swabs and lost an afternoon shooting trying to fix this. Luckily Thompson Photo Products in Knoxville had Eclipse and swabs in stock on a Saturday afternoon. I only change lenses powered down and after I have brushed and blown. the dust off both the camera body and lens. Not a happy camper and it makes me a little apprehensive to even use the X-E1.

    Flash: One star. Fuji isn’t a small company. They outsource their flash manufacturing. They certainly could and should have a much better TTL offering. (Sadly, for Nikon’s excellence in SLR flash, its flash support for the Nikon 1 series is inexcusable.)

    At this point Fuji represents, IMHO, the best compromise between size and weight vs. image quality for professional use except for portraiture as the skin-tone issue is not inconsequential. Fuji’s glass is incredible. The “kit” 18-55 lens rivals Canon L glass in terms of sharpness. Wish they could be smaller and lighter, though. The X-T1 is getting rave reviews in spite of the initial quality control issues. Perhaps Canon will blow this out of the water should it ever get its mirrorless act together but I agree that for now the Fuji X system is the one to beat though it does have room for improvement.

  7. Sorry for the typos and length. Forgot to (a) add a “ding” for X-E2 and X-E1 autofocusing which lags behind the excellent V1 and (b) Happy Mother’s Day to Sherelene!

    • the pilgrim says:

      Dick, Sherelene says, thank you!! I don’t shoot a lot of people stuff, so I will keep an eye out for the ski tone issue you mentioned. Thanks for your thorough review comments!

  8. Eric Wojtkun says:

    Bill…I’m happy with my XE-1 when shooting slowly and deliberately. It does force me to slow down and shoot…hence my composition does improve. Shooting this weekend on a rented XT-1 I shot hard subjects like a dance recital, a seven year old birthday party at the bowling alley, and now a short trip for some photojournalism/Americana…I can say it is as good as my three year old Pentax K5 for those subjects. The lenses are superior than many Pentax lenses…as they remained static but Fujifilm innovated. I’ll get you a full report, but you were right it already does not want to go back.

  9. the pilgrim says:

    Thanks Eric, they have that tendency!!!

  10. Brian Miller says:

    Hi Bill! I’m leaving tomorrow for a week on the Oregon coast! I’m really tempted to leave my Canon 5DMIII Equipment at home and only travel with my XT-1 and lenses. I guess I’m just not ready and I’m compromising on both systems picking and choosing lenses. I love the XT-1, I guess if I wouldn’t have rented a lens for the 5D I’d be more tempted. Can’t wait to feel the freedom of traveling with only the X System! Loving my XT-1!

    • admin says:

      It’s never wrong to be cautious, it has taken me a year to be sure I was doing they right thing, don’t feel bad, you will make the right decision for you eventually and that is all that matters!

    • Brian, I’ve been a Canon shooter for over 30 years. When I made the mirrorless plunge I carried both for a month tops and now leave the Canon gear at home except for when I need the big guns for wildlife. Your X-T1 should do well on the coast although I am not comfortable with only one body. I carry the X-E2 with the X-E1 for backup. FYI, Pro Photo Supply in Portland is a Fuji dealer.

  11. Brian Miller says:

    PS – I loved your Kelby video on Olympic Park!

  12. Rick Browne says:

    Bill –
    Your raves about the system, combined with top-flight reviews in a number of camera magazines, convinced me to jump into the Fuji system with both feet. I received a big box from B&H Photo today with the Fuji X-T1 with 18-55 lens, the 14mm lens, the 55-200, and the 60 macro. I’m looking forward to taking this set-up (less the macro lens) on an upcoming trip to London – saving space and weight and still getting great shots. It’s going to be a steep learning curve over the next week and a half, but I know it’s going to be fun! I won’t be selling off my Canon equipment – at least not yet! But if Fuji comes out with a 120-400 (and maybe a 180 macro), I just might! Thanks for all the information you’ve passed out on this nice little camera.

    • the pilgrim says:

      I predict you will love it, so take your time and get used to it. It I twill pay big dividends! Read in the manual about how to setup film simulation bracketing. I have mine set for Velvia, Provia (standard) and monochrome. That way every time you make an exposure the camera will process it as all three of those renditions! You’ll love it! The camera will slow you down, which has helped me make better, more “considered” images.

  13. gerry slater says:

    Bill, thanks for a very thoughtful and articulate review. I have been looking at the XT-1 for some time..but had too many doubts. You talked me off the fence.. Fuji should throw you a little something for the effort.. Look forward to seeing you in Vegas in the Fall

  14. Bill, thanks for sharing. I agree with you 100%. I am currently shooting with an X-E2 and X-T1 and several lenses. I still have all my Nikon gear, hard to let go… But still on the shelf most of the time, specially when traveling abroad.

  15. jr says:

    So have you settled on one of the four cameras? Is it now the X-T1. My Manager of Purchasing (also known as Mrs.) probably won’t allow two cameras so I’m torn between the X-E2 and the X-T1. I have no plans on replacing my D600 any time soon but there are times when the smaller camera is all I need, Right now I have a X-M1 and I would have been less than thrilled with the line if I had not bought the 34mm 1.4 which makes wonderful images.

  16. Glyn Dewis says:

    Bill,

    A great read accompanied by great images and I have to admit I’m totally with you about the Fuji X-T1.

    I recently purchased one along with the 18-55 and the 55-200 after RC and Frank Doorhof teased (polite way of saying ‘bullied’) me into getting one 🙂 lol

    Mind you…Im VERY happy I did! Portability, size, weight, quality of files are just spot on…I couldn’t be happier. I’ve yet to move away from my Canon but hey…who knows what the future brings.

    Be well and I’ll see you in Vegas,
    Glyn

    • the pilgrim says:

      Glyn, my friend, can’t wait to see you in Vegas! So glad RC and Frank did you that favor! Canon makes great stuff and they and Nikon make products that do things only they do well, but for me the
      X System has been a great fit! Can’t believe the “great” Glyn cane to my blog!!!! Whoopee!

  17. the pilgrim says:

    Should gave been “came” to my blog!

  18. Matthieu Oostveen says:

    Awesome information Bill, and great images as always.

    I am seriously considering getting myself an X-T1 but have become a little cautious after my Olympus Long Exposure noise debacle, especially with anything that exceeds 60 seconds.
    My old and battered 550D produces fairly clean images even with LE noise reduction set to off while the Olympus is riddled with noise even with NR on.

    I’m curious to learn how the Fuji would do on lengthy exposures without LE noise reduction being active.

    • admin says:

      I just shot some 8 minute exposures on the coast of South Carolina with Mark Hilliard, the master at this kind of stuff, he shoots Fuji as do I, (he also owns the Olympus and a fair amount of Leica too) and we got wonderful stuff, with NR turned on. I haven’t seen nothing that does better on very long exposures than the Fuji. Maybe the Canon 5D Mark III?

      • Matthieu Oostveen says:

        Thanks for bringing Mark to my attention Bill, looks like the Fuji would be a very good choice for LE indeed!

        The 5DIII would probably give better results, but would be moving in the opposite direction; I’m trying to keep the weight down a bit 🙂

  19. Charlie Anderson says:

    I wish the X-T1 would have a better action for ‘back button focus’

    And I wish the LCD was (I’m not sure of the right term) hot or touch sensitive like the Olympus E-M1.

  20. I’ve been considering the X system for a long time. I mostly do travel photography so I’m considering the XT-1, the x100s, the 10-24mm, the 56mm to shoot people. I can wait for the 50-140mm later.
    Do I need any of these others: 23mm or 35mm? the 18-55mm in the kit?
    Thanx for sharing your knowledge of the Fuji System.

    • the pilgrim says:

      I think you hit the nail on the head, if I was starting over that would be my choice. The 23 f 1.4 and the 35 f 1.4 are both spectacular glass and wonderful if you do a lot of available light work! They are great lenses but do not get as much use as the lenses you’ve selected, I would get the 18-55 when you buy the body, you will find it very valuable, and optically superb! Hope that helps!

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