I’m not a big vacation/travel photography type of person. I believe (and recent articles have shown it be true) that taking too many photographs can actually ruin your memory of the scene. You see this all the time, right…people standing in front of an amazing piece of art and instead of looking at it with their eyes, they look at it through the screen of their iPhone. Come on, Man!
Anyway, despite my policy on photographing less, and enjoying more, I did (of course) bring a camera to my recent 10-day London and Paris holiday. I travel with a “less is more” approach, and that extends to my camera gear. So, I packed my new Fujifilm X-T1 along with just two lenses: 23mm 1.4 and 18-55 zoom. I thought about bringing the 56 1.2, but decided to leave it at home because it’s really a portrait lens, and it’s relatively heavy. Overall, I have no regrets with bringing only 2 lenses. In fact, if I had to bring just one lens, it would be the 23 1.4 without a doubt, and I would have been fine.
The X-T1 proved excellent, with just a few possible exceptions (more on that below). First, the positives:
- Nice and light. I found it light enough with the 23 1.4 to carry with no problem the majority of time on my wrist via the beautiful Gordy’s wrist strap. When not on my wrist, it easily fit into a very small knapsack. It made me feel great about ditching my 5DII when I saw all those other tourists with those massive DSLRs with obnoxious lenses. I could see the grief in their eyes.
- Fast and easy. I really appreciated the X-T1’s speed – it was quick to start-up, set exposure parameters, focus, and shoot. The ability to see something, make a few quick adjustments, and just shoot was huge. I find this aspect of the camera a big advantage over X-Pro1 which was not ergonomically as easy. The one ergonomic exception is the multi-controller. See below.
- Easy to hand to someone. This is a big deal! While visiting these amazing cities, there were many times my wife and I wanted a snapshot together. The X-T1 is not a “selfie” camera. So, we had to ask another tourist to take a picture (I could write a whole article on how to effectively select that person…). Most people we asked just simply thought the X-T1 was like any DSLR...they didn’t even know it was an EVF. In a couple cases, savvy photographers recognized the X-T1 and got all excited to use it. But, in no case did anyone have any trouble. Handing someone the X-Pro1, on the other hand, was much more an adventure.
- EVF made it all a pleasure. The EVF on this thing still blows me away. As mentioned in the point above, others who used the camera didn’t even realize it wasn’t a “normal” viewfinder. But, what made the EVF so great to use was how it shows effects of exposure adjustments in the EVF in real time. This was so useful for many situations, especially when DOF was an issue. It made the camera very quick (see first bullet).
- Looks great. Again, don’t underestimate this! This camera is classy and beautiful and says something about the owner – clearly, I’m classy and beautiful, too (he said, smiling). But, seriously, it got a lot of second looks and made me feel proud to own it – especially among the sea of DSLRs and other “standard” cameras.
- Stealthy. Again, I was surprised to see how many people were lugging around these huge DSLRS. They just scream “tourist!” On the other hand, carrying the X-T1 on my wrist helped me blend in just a bit more. Of course, the large fold-out map may have given me away.
While the experience with the X-T1 was overwhelmingly positive, there are a few negatives worth mentioning…the first is potentially a big deal to some photographers.
- EVF in bright sunlight can be a problem. Several times, the bright sunlight made the EVF difficult to use. This came as a surprise to me. It might have been an issue with my eyes not adjusting well, but it did cause a problem at least for me. In case you are wondering, yes, I did have the brightness level all the way up. It didn’t make things impossible, just hard. Now, the good news is I rarely shoot in these conditions. But, if you are someone who might be using the camera in harsh, bright sunlight just beware.
- Battery life. This is not a new complaint, but still…the short battery life was sort of hassle. I guess I’m still used to the battery in my old 5DII. Anyway, I always made sure to have an extra battery on hand and whenever I saw the battery indicator dipping even one notch, I switched. I don’t know if Fuji improved the accuracy of the batter life indicator, but I didn’t want to risk anything. Again, just beware.
- Multi-controller not any easier to use. This last point has been well documented by others. Yes, that little multi-controller thing on the back has not become natural or easy to use. It’s not a deal breaker, of course. But, it did make an otherwise great camera just a bit harder to use. It’s just a bit too small. Period.