Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I Really Want a Fujifilm X-T1 but...

Cascade Gorge, OR
Olympus E-M5, Panasonic 35-100 mm X lens; 1/6th sec. @ f/8, ISO 200, Handheld
...I think I will gain only one advantage over my Olympus E-M1 while losing several features that enjoy and supports the way I photograph.  This is a classic case of emotion versus logic.

The Fujifilm X-T1 looks really intriguing to me.  I am fascinated by the X-Trans sensor, the simplicity of the controls, the haptics of the body and how the image quality has been described.  New ideas and inventions in photography intrigue me, especially if they help me create better images.

 Additionally, Fujifilm has created some very nice prime lenses.  I used only prime lenses for 30 years and I have a nostalgic feeling for them.  I wouldn't mind going back to using only primes on occasion.

However, taking emotion out of my decision-making, if I bought the X-T1 and some lenses, would I be gaining much over my Olympus E-1 System?

Logically thinking, I would gain the ability to make images at higher ISOs with less noise which would expand my photographic opportunities.  Since my analysis of my own work shows that only 3% of my images are made at ISOs over 1600, I have a hard time justifying the expense for a camera body and a batch of lenses for that 3%.  I have used my Olympus E-M1 at ISO 1600 and the image quality is fine with noise easily removed in a variety of programs.  Even the images I have made at ISO 3200 can be "fixed" fairly well with judicious editing and noise reduction.  They are fine.  So, the case for images at ISO 3200-6400 and above can be made.  But, that is only 0.7% of my images! I don't think I can make a case for spending that kind of money for so few images.

But, this thought came to mind.  Do I only use ISOs higher than 1600 rarely because of the noise and limitations of my current or past cameras or is it because I don't need to?  Would I do more low light photography if I had a camera that handled very high ISOs better?  Which is the causal factor?  I'm not sure.

I would also gain the size of an APS-C sensor over a M4/3 sensor.  No gain in megapixels, they are both about 16mp, but the size of the megapixels would be bigger, hence less digital noise.  However, as far as overall image quality for normal photography, my extensive testing has shown there is no practical difference in actual prints, or for that matter, on a computer screen between the two formats.  So no benefit there.

EVF?  Almost exactly the same size.  The size difference wouldn't make any practical difference.  Both are excellent, bright, have fast refresh rates and are state of the art.  The Fujifilm's refresh rate is slightly quicker, but I have no complaints about the E-M1's viewfinder. No practical advantage there.

Using prime high quality prime lenses attracts me, but Olympus, Panasonic, Leica, Sigma and VÃķigtlander make some great primes for M4/3!  I would put some of the higher end Olympus and Panasonic lenses up against the Fujifilm ones any day.  Both are excellent.  No advantage there.

Focus speed?  From everything I have read from early reviews, the E-M1 consistently is said to focus faster. As far as focusing on moving objects, that is still an unknown.  Both manufacturers have made progress in that area, but I haven't see anyone directly compare the two cameras in that feature.  No advantage there.

How about more dynamic range of the sensor in the X-T1?  I can't directly compare the two as I usually use DXO Mark to make comparisons. Their testing process is good for apples to apples comparisons since they use the same methodology consistently.  They haven't tested any of the Fujifilm's highest level sensors.  But the E-M1, according to them, has a dynamic range of 12.7 stops.  I can't imagine, from the reviews and things I have read that the X-T1 has more than that.  If it does, it won't be much more. So, no real gain there.

The only other gain would be an increase in satisfaction in using the camera system.  Usability and pleasure in using your tools are always important factors.  But, I don't know since I haven't used one yet.  I have downloaded and read the entire user's manual for the X-T1.  I like the menu system and the simplicity of the controls, which hearken back to film cameras.  But I'm pretty darn happy with the Olympus system.  It has its drawbacks, which I have outline here.  The X-T1 may have a bit of an advantages since the Olympus is so complex to set up and use.  Simplicity is good as far as I am concerned.

But what would I lose?

First, I would lose money on the sale of my M4/3 camera and lenses.  Even though M4/3 is increasing in popularity, one still doesn't recover all the money spent buying the equipment when later selling it.  I don't like losing money unnecessarily.  The loss probably would be minimal since M4/3 is in good demand, but still a loss.

Second, and this is huge.  The image stabilization on the Olympus E-M1 and E-M5 is simply amazing!  Losing that would be a major loss.  The E-M1 and E-M5 have the best image stablization I have ever used.  Period!  Fujifilm has image stabilization built only into their zoom lenses–none of their primes.  Olympus built it into the E-M1's body so whatever lens I attach is wonderfully stabilized.  Additionally, Panasonic puts stabilization in many of their lenses, so that gives me a choice of which to use.  Fujifilm doesn't provide that option.  I wish they did.  I find the in-body stabilization so valuable, now that I have had it for the past 2 years, I don't think it would be easy to give it up.

Third, the ability to set multiple types of exposure bracketing.  I use exposure bracketing quite often in my work.  Fujifilm only allows a maximum of 3 exposures, 1 f/stop apart.  On the Olympus I can set up to 11 different exposure bracketing settings in the menu, as well as 7 additional using the button mounted on the top of the camera.  I would miss that versatility very much as I often use it when the scene is very contrasty.  My most often used exposure bracketing setting is 5 exposures, 1 f/stop apart.  With the X-T1, I would have to compensate by first adjusting the exposure bracketing dial either + or -, make the three exposures, then move it in the opposite direction and make three more exposures, then keeping the five exposures 1 f/stop apart.  That is really unnecessary and makes it difficult to handhold bracketed exposures.  Fujifilm could easily change this in firmware.  It would be a welcome change as I suspect many others have the same need.

Fourth, I have come to like the touch screen.  I don't use it a lot, but do use it on occasion since it is a feature that I have never had before.  There are times when I like to use the touch screen to quickly pinpoint a focus point or even pinpoint a focus point as well as immediately release the shutter.

Fifth, I would lose a bit on lens size.  The camera bodies are about the same size, but the lenses for a larger sensor, APS-C in this case, have to be bigger in order to cover the sensor's larger image circle.  That is physics and optics.  I am going for smaller and lighter.

So, logically, the purchase of a Fujifilm XT-1 just doesn't make great sense to me.  Does that mean I may not purchase one?  No, I never said I was always totally logical!  Emotion is huge part of photography and I love learning and experimenting with new techniques and gear in photography.  After all, that is what part of photography is all about.  Enjoyment.

If you are truly interested in the Fujifilm X-T1, I recommend you read Dan Bailey's blog here.  Dan is a terrific Alaska based photographer, explorer, writer, teacher, pilot and knows his stuff.  He has written a number of posts on his blog testing the X-T1, including a very thorough "hands-on" evaluation.  Dan was the first photographer in the U.S. to get a production model and put it through its paces.  Highly recommended.

My advice–no matter what I write or anyone else writes, buy the camera and system that fits your particular needs and brings you joy in your photography.  Don't let anyone tell you that you need this or that.  Do the research and you will be able to determine exactly what you need. You won't spend money unnecessarily or have regrets.

Will I buy an X-T1?  Logic versus emotion?  Better images?  You will just have to check back here and follow my blog.

Thanks for looking.  Enjoy!

Dennis Mook

Many of my images can be found at www.dennismook.com.  Please pay it a visit.  I add new images regularly.  Thank you.


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In regards to the EVF comparison - i found the E-M1 EVF larger and the Fuji to show clear pixelation and also clearly visible flicker when used indoors. At least the latter effect could be reproduced with two other bodies. Personally I´ve a problem with the X-Hype in general cos there are features hyped like they´ve never been excisting before. It´s great to see that they got their AF-C to work, but is that minor improvement over the X-E1/2 really something to write home about it or shouldn´t we say "Oh Fuji you finally made it after all others managed it already"? Same for high-ISO - is nice 6400, 12800 etc. really such a great achievement given that other brands are already there (and far beyond)? It might be for Fuji as such as they managed to get their on their own in relatively short time (with the X-Series at least) but in general? All in all the X-Series has achieved a lot and has to be seriously monitored in the future, but also has still a long way ahead of it (i don´t expect the "groundbreaking new model" to be really groundbreaking rather than evolutionary as the iterations before it).