Sunday 10 February 2019

Fujifilm X-T1 - Am I Nuts?

The Grove 
Fujifilm X-E1, XF 18/2 R

I did NOT get along with X-Trans when I had my X-E1. The X-Trans sensor and the difficulties in processing images from it were the primary reason why I sold the X-E1, which otherwise was a decent but not exceptional camera.

So why would I buy a camera with the same basic sensor 5 years later? The short answer is that while I'm still not sold on the benefits of X-Trans and still think the #1 improvement Fuji could do for its line is to switch to Bayer across the board (right now only the inexpensive X-T100 and X-A5, and the high-end GF medium format bodies are Bayer, everything in between is X-Trans). The reality however is that if you are not using Lightroom, you can get quite good results from X-Trans today as the workflow challenges are largely gone. Yeah, Lightroom/ACR still have issues with the green channel, but CaptureOne and most of the smaller options all support X-Trans pretty well.

On the flip side I was looking for something decidedly smaller than the D7100. I went into the store to return the D7100 and look at 3 different cameras, the D3500, the X-T100 and the E-M10 III. The D3500 was my fallback choice. Smallish viewfinder, cheap build, limited AF, but it would have got me a 35/1.8DX as well as the kit lens in a package I know I could work with. The X-T100 was the camera I was hoping would work, as I generally like Fuji's ergonomics, but was quite ambivalent about the new 15-45 OIS Powerzoom kit lens. I just don't really like power zoom lenses. Finally, the E-M10 III with the non-PZ kit was what I was mostly expecting to settle on, as it would let me also get the excellent little 40-150R telezoom.

A quick handling test confirmed I would be fine with the D3500. It felt cheapish, but has a remarkably good grip and every control was pretty much where I expected it to be. Only real downside is Nikon is still using that ancient 11 point AF unit that originated with the D200 well over a decade ago. Really, just in terms of parts rationalization, this should have been dumped for the 39 point unit from the now 9 year old D7000.

I took a quick pass by the Sony section. They had some cheap NEX-6's and a good deal on the A6000. But nothing that really snagged my attention, and I really did want something a little more SLR-like in terms of handling.

I then tried the X-T100. Nice body, handles much like an FE2 or FM2n. The PZ lens was gimmicky, but I could live with it. No real warts at all.

I briefly tried the E-M10 III, I'm not sure if there was a settings problem or what, but the EVF was unusable in the store due to standing flickering. It actually hurt to look through. Pretty much instantly killed any interest in that body (they did have an E-M1 and an original E-M5 at prices I could work with, but I've owned both and wasn't interested in owning either again for various handling reasons, lets leave it at both have button layout issues in my opinion)

Then I noticed a used XC 16-50 OIS sitting next to a used X-T1. I'd missed this pair in my first pass around the store. I had to try that. I compared the size to the X-T100, and while it's larger, it's not significantly so (mostly it's taller, although the 16-50 is also longer than the 15-45 in powered off condition, the PZ lens extends on power-on to be about the same size as the 16-50). I had to try it. When the X-T1 originally launched I thought is was simply the best laid out digital camera I'd seen, and while time has shown it has a couple issues, it's still very well laid out, fits the hand nicely and has an excellent EVF (a touch better than the A7II IMHO). The downside was the 16MP X-Trans sensor, which I had not gotten along with the last time I'd owned one, 5 years ago. That said, after a few minutes of playing, I made the call that the X-T1+16-50 worked better than the X-T100+15-45 combo. I was really impressed with the X-T100, it is quite good for what it is, and I could easily see myself owning one alongside a higher-end X-T body. I liked the 15-45 much less (the X-T100 is available body-only, but Fuji no longer kits the IMHO better 16-50 lens). The other aspect was the used X-T1 was less than the body-only X-T100, so I could add a spare battery (always a must for mirrorless) and come out ahead on my return credit. Still have $20 in credit which can help pay for a grip or 3rd battery or whatever.

PS, it was the Zeiss 85/1.4 that paid for all of this. Brilliant lens, but big, heavy and a focal length I've just never been entirely in love with (I've come to realize I prefer the 28/50/105 or 21/35/105 combos to the xx/85 combo). Got $25 less in credit than I paid for the lens, so effectively I rented it for about $8/year plus taxes.

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