Thursday, March 20, 2014

Photographing with the FujiFilm X-T1; Wow! Nice!

(Wednesday, March 19, 2014; Day 1 with the X-T1)

Having received the X-T1 last evening and ensuring that the camera and lenses were fully functioning correctly, I ventured out this morning to familiarize myself with this camera system, make some images and see for myself, a) how the user experience is with this camera and, b) take a good look at the quality of the images.  This will be the first of at least two parts to this assessment.

Before I get into the day's shooing with this new camera, I just want to say after I returned home and brought the JPEGS into Lightroom 5, the images look great!  I'm really pleased.  The resolution, overall contrast, micro-contrast, sharpness and color fidelity are very pleasing to me.  And–those aren't even the RAW files!  Are they better than the images from my E-M1?  There is no way to tell on a large computer monitor.  But I have absolutely no complaints so far.  Just wanted to get that out of the way in case you don't want to read this entire post.  One caveat, however, is that I have not yet photographed finely detail "green" foliage, which from what I have read, poses somewhat of a problem in Lightroom with losing detail and looking "painterly." As I proceed through this testing process, I will surely shoot some foliage to see for myself.

The weather today is miserable.  It had been raining for the past few days and this morning the sky is heavily overcast and the day generally dark.  When shooting film, I used to call this a 4-stop day.  That means that on a day like this, I would open my aperture up 4 stops from the "sunny 16 rule" to get a proper exposure.  Rain was intermittent.  So, I resigned myself to not making any bright, colorful, contrasty images.  But that is okay.  This kind of day provides an opportunity to see what I can do with any resulting images in making them look better than they really are.

Since I made the initial menu settings yesterday, and made some preliminary evaluations of the image files, I thought I would adjust the in-camera settings for this miserable looking day.  I have downloaded the latest release candidate for Adobe Camera Raw, so I do have access to look at the raw files and wanted to see how the cameras internal settings handled JPEGS as well.  So, I set the camera to record RAW + JPEG.  This also gives me to the option to go back in Lightroom at a later date to edit the RAW files when Lightroom is updated with the latest demosaicing software.

I set the "film type" for Neg H and added +1 to color.  I thought that might help the files on such a bad, rainy day.  Second, since I had looked at JPEGS yesterday and thought the in-camera sharpening, which by default was set to "0", was a bit soft, I bumped up that setting to +1.  Upon assessing the images, the +1 sharpness setting looks about right if I wanted to send images out directly with no additional processing and sharpening.  I set the camera for aperture priority (my normal shooting mode), continuous low advance, white balance to "auto", IS to Mode 2 and focus to S.
(I am a "back button" focus/continuous autofocus advocate.  I need to figure out if I can successfully use that method with this camera.  Press the AF button and the lens focuses.  Release the button and the focus stops immediately. If your subject is moving, just pan with it and hold the button in.  Focus stays on the moving subject. Works perfectly, once you get used to it.)

The first thing I noticed was the EVF.  It is huge as everyone has already noted.  Very clear, contrasty and the colors look good through it.  I'm a fan of EVFs, so I am pleased everyone is making them better and better.  However, upon first use, the EVF looked really dark.  Looking through the EVF, at its default brightness setting, was darker than the real world view. When comparing its brightness to the "in viewfinder" histogram, it appeared darker than it should.  The histogram looked right, but the viewfinder looked very dark.  I then went into the menu system, which is very easy when compared to the E-M5 and E-M1, and adjusted the EVF/LCD to a +1 setting.  That worked well for the EVF, but I wanted to lighten up the LCD a bit more so I bumped that up to +2. Those two changes were much better for my way of working.  You will have to judge how you want them to look based upon your own tastes.

Speaking of histograms, I normally look closely at my histogram while using an EVF to judge exposure. Your histogram is your best lightmeter.  You can immediately see whether or not your highlights will be blown out or your shadows will be lost.  Fujifilm does not provide a very large nor easily readable histogram.  That would be #1 on my wish list for firmware updates–larger histogram.  In my book, the E-M1 and E-M5 "in-EVF" histograms are much better.

After making a few images, my first impression is that this camera is unlike any I have ever used.  Is that good or bad?  Neither, it is just different in handling, sound and how it executes image capture.  It just throws me off mentally as it doesn't react like my other cameras.  I know that it is just a matter of getting used to the camera, but I must say, it is a bit different.  The same could have been said about the E-M5.  Different and more complex than any camera I had previously used, but I got used to it quickly.  I expect the same for this Fujifilm.

For example, after taking three exposure bracketed images, the three images briefly pop up in the EVF!  That was a surprise.  Again, not good or bad, just different from my E-M1 or E-M5.  The sound when making several quick exposures is also a bit different.  More exploration of that is also warranted.

The focus, set in S, locked on immediately in all situations.  No problems there.  Plenty fast.  As fast as the E-M1?  The two are close enough that, in reality, it doesn't matter.  Not sure which one may be faster.  I tried tracking focus with an oncoming freight train.  It just would not lock on to the front of the train, even though the front was yellow with a bright headlight for plenty of contrast.  I'm not sure if I was doing anything wrong and I will try again tomorrow when it is sunny.  In the case with the train (see accompanying images), when it wouldn't lock on to the front of the locomotive and track it, I quickly set the focus control to S. It locked on and I made several images, all in good focus.  The train was traveling about 40 mph (64 kph).  I'm going back out tomorrow and try it again.  I'll review the manual to see if I am doing anything wrong other than simply switching the focus lever to C. (I may try changing the focusing point settings and see if that works)
The manual focus worked like a charm.  I had the red "focus peaking" set and it made manually focusing a breeze!  I can see myself using manual focus much more often in the future, especially with the easy switch to manual focus with the Fujifilm prime lenses.  Just pull the focusing collar toward you and you are focusing manually with focus peaking.  I will also play with the other focus assist modes.  This is a great feature for me.

I used the bracketing function.  It is easy to engage and disengage.  The camera brackets sequentially as normal exposure, plus exposure, minus exposure.  I sure would like the option for 5 and 7 bracketed exposures as well as have the ability to change the sequence to -, normal, +.  That way it is easy to see where the bracketed exposures sequence starts when reviewing your images.  That would be #2 on my firmware wishlist–more bracketing options.

Switching modes from aperture priority, to manual to shutter priority was easy and straightforward.  I especially like adjusting the aperture ring on the lens itself.  I had done that for 30 years and it gives my left hand something to do besides support the lens during image exposure.  I don't have to remove my finger from the shutter button to change apertures as I did for my Nikon cameras and the front dial.  Additionally, for changing the IS, shutter speed, exposure compensation, ISO, advance function, and some others, you don't even have to turn the camera on.  They are mechanical and can be adjusted easily.  I like that.

I had read where some photographers had issues with using the IS when shutter speeds were high.  In fact, they reported that the images were not as sharp as having IS off.  I didn't experience that with either the 18-55mm lens nor the 55-200mm lens.  Both lenses produced sharp images at high shutter speeds with IS off or on.

The auto white balance was a bit off.  The images on this heavily overcast day were a bit on the cool side.  In Lightroom 5, I added from +5 to +15 points higher color temperature (more toward the yellow side) and about +5 points magenta (remove green) to neutralize the colors.  Not any better or worse than any other digital camera I have owned and used.  My normal procedure is to shoot exclusively in RAW with a "daylight" white balance.  Since it is not embedded in the files, it doesn't matter.  I adjust the white balance on one image, then copy it to the others.

I found myself using manual exposure more than I normally do.  I think it may be a function of the manual controls and the ease at which they can be changed.  Couple that with the brightness and image tones in the EVF as well as the histogram changing in real time, it seems logical.  I'll monitor my habits with this but I feel very comfortable already shooting in manual mode.

The LCD on the back is big and bright.  I made several images from ground level shooting up into some daffodils and from above when I photographed a dock with pedal boats.  It was easy to see on this particular day.  When the sun comes out tomorrow, I'll assess how easy it is to see in bright sunlight.  Most likely like all the others, but that is a function of technology.

I only have one Fn button changed right now.  Fn #1 on the front of the camera, which sits right under my finger, is perfect to push, freeing up changing the focus point.  As I get more familiar with the camera, I will assess to which functions the others should be set.  I know one will be depth of field preview.  I have used that function for over 40 years and I will use it on this camera, if it is available.  I find it very valuable.

I only used two lenses today, the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 and the 55-200 f/3.5-4.8.  Both lenses produced wonderful images.  The images had high resolution, good contrast, little distortion if any and no chromatic aberrations that I could see.  I do have the LMO set to "on" in the menu and that may have a positive effect.  I have not looked at the RAW images yet to see if there is a difference.  I can recommend both lenses for serious photography.

The last thing I did today was upgrade the firmware in the two lenses.  I should have done that last evening, but, with the excitement of getting a copy of this camera that worked as designed, I forgot.  Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and mild.  I will go out again and see what differences I can detect in the lens as well as make some images on a sunny day!  Can't wait!

At this point, after one day, I'm liking this camera and its lenses.  I only have one concern and that is what I have seen with the problem of recording detail in green foliage and other finely defined green objects.  I don't know if this current update of ACR takes care of that, as one photographer wrote in his blog.  I'll have to judge for myself.  If the ACR and future Lightroom updates don't satisfactorily deal with that issue, I will probably incorporate Photo Ninja into my editing workflow, although that is less than ideal.

Here are some additional images from today.

Thanks for looking. Enjoy!

Dennis Mook

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

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  1. Hi Dennis,
    "I know one will be depth of field preview. I have used that function for over 40 years and I will use it on this camera, if it is available."
    I think the camera closes the aperture automatically when half pressing the shutter and "Exposure Preview" in the menu is set to "ON" ? So you have an automatic DOF preview..
    Kind regards,

  2. One thing that might work for shifting the AE bracketing would be to use the exposure compensation. For instance, if you're bracket is set to 1-stop difference, and you want to shift the exposure compensation so that the "brightest" bracketed value is the "correct" exposure, shift the exposure compensation down a stop. That would have exactly the same effect as shifting the bracketing.