I apologise in advance for talking about something that hasn’t been released, let alone announced yet. But… I couldn’t resist! My enthusiasm for cameras is one of the main reasons I started this blog in the first place and I’m actually glad to see that I’m not the only one on the Web who can’t wait to write something about the long-rumoured Fujifilm X-T1. But what’s all the fuss about, anyway?
Well, there are actually many things to be excited about it. I won’t comment on every spec rumoured these days. For that, you can always visit the excellent Fujirumors website, where you can also see many pictures of the camera. Instead of talking specs which haven’t been confirmed yet, I prefer to highlight the reasons why I think this camera could be a real whopper.
I’m looking forward to the X-T1 mainly because I am curious to answer one question:
Can the new Fujifilm beat the OM-D E-M1 on its own terrain – that is, autofocus speed and accuracy?
When the MILC market first started to grow and capture the attention of enthusiasts and photographers, it was found that they continued to lag behind DSLRs concerning many crucial features a professional needs from his camera, and one of them was autofocus. Then Panasonic and particularly Olympus showed that a fast autofocus was more than possible on a MILC and today the OM-D E-M1 has taken a step up to the next level: it is the first mirrorless camera that can rival mid and high end DSLRs for AF speed and accuracy. Note that I am saying rival, but that doesn’t mean that it performs better. I would say the E-M1 is pretty darn close to DSLR performance.
On the Fuji side of the story, autofocus has always been its Achilles’ Heel. Yes, the company has shown great dedication by listening to its customers and adding concrete firmware updates, but we aren’t quite there yet. When Fuji released the X100s, they claimed it had the world’s fastest autofocus, but in the real world this proved to be wrong. There is certainly a great improvement over the X100 but there still remains a lot of work to do. The same thing can be said for the X-E2 versus the X-E1.
So why should the X-T1 be different in terms of AF performance?
Well, because many other aspects of the camera that are being talked about these days point in a more professional direction: weather sealing, fast continuos shooting, dual SD card slot, SLR design, battery grip and the already confirmed f/2.8 constant aperture zoom lenses. Also, there seem to be new and clever dials that allow you to control all the main settings without having to access the menu.
In my opinion, there is only one reason to include all these impressive specs and design these new professional-grade lenses – Fujifilm is finally closing the autofocus gap. Photographers will likely use these new lenses for work assignment – think weddings, event reportage, dance or theatre shows, all situations where a fast and reliable AF is crucial. Fuji’s decision to change the design of the body is not a coincidence either. It is small enough to keep the system compact but with a solid grip and a more natural “DSLR” feeling. And let’s not forget about the EVF, which could be even bigger than the one built into the OM-D E-M1. All these elements in the equation can only lead to one result: Speed and Power.
Speed and Power are what I’m hoping for.
If speed is going to be the main feature of the X-T1, we may well be approaching a very important step in the development of the mirrorless segment.
The OM-D E-M1 has already proven a great alternative to DSLRs for many aspects with the addition of its unique 5-axis stabilisation. Sony, with its A7 and A7r, has also attracted many professionals to its side because of its full frame sensors.
And then we have Fuji, whose X cameras are probably the most popular amongst those who also photograph for a living. However, up until now, Fuji cameras have always been a different alternative to DSLRs than Olympus cameras. The rangefinder design and fast/high quality primes encouraged many photographers to update their approach to certain genres of photography such as street and documentary wedding. Some have already made the complete switch, whereas others have placed the X system alongside their main system for work (mostly DSLRs).
If the X-T1 is really that good concerning speed and AF, could it be the camera to trigger more ‘system switching’ than any other model?
After all, a camera with these specs would certainly be the next best choice below a DSLR. An APS-C sensor that many photographers can digest better than Micro Four Thirds (which, we must say, is often wrongly underestimated). A compact system with very high quality lenses. A body that performs like a DSLR or close enough to it. Yes, with a camera like this, Fujifilm is indeed bearing a great responsibility on its shoulders.
Fujifilm seems to have thought the X system through very well up until now. They started out with professionals in mind, and subsequently expanded the system to enthusiasts and amateurs after solidifying their name in the hearts of a community of photographers who honestly believe in the system and love to write about it.
When I wrote my X-Pro1 complete review, I titled it “A System that aims for perfection”. The updated lens road map and this new camera may surely be confirmation of this. I think Fujifilm knows what is at stake here. And up until now, they had proven to be a brand worth trusting.