At the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan. Fuji X-T1 and 23 f/1.4 lens. RAW file processed in LR 5.4 with the Asita profile. 

Fuji X-T1 For Travel Photography Review Part 1: Introduction

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Fuji X-T1, 23mm f/1.4 @ f/11 ISO 800 1/250. RAW file processed with LR 5.4 with Fujifilm Velvia Profile.

It’s been a real challenge to find a camera and camera system that allows me to capture high-quality images, travels well, and fits inside my laptop bag. I do everything in my power to not have to check bags when I am traveling for business. This means I have to bring a carry-on bag that fits all my clothes and my laptop bag that fits my computer, all my various electronics and still has room for a camera. This limits the size of my camera and lenses greatly.

And I have I gone through a number of different cameras this year. It all started when I sold all of my DSLR gear. I had a pair of Nikon D700s, and number of lenses, flashes and accessories that fit in a giant Think Tank Photo rolling bag. See, I was shooting weddings and portrait sessions and needed the DSLR gear. But as life often does, things change and my career path has changed.

As it happens, I get a chance to travel a lot more for work, which gives me an opportunity to travel to a number of fun places. But while I still had the DSLRs, I never brought them while traveling for business because of the size. So I’ve been looking for something smaller ever since.  Currently, I am shooting with the Fujifilm X-T1 and 23 1.4 lens, which I just had the opportunity to travel to Tokyo with. 

Tokyo is one of my absolute favorite cities to visit. It’s clean, the people are friendly and accommodating, and the food is out of this world. It also is a city full of bright colors, interesting sites and great opportunities to capture photographs. 

…Oh and did I mention the food was great?

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Fuji X-T1, 23mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4 ISO 640 1/125. RAW file processed with LR 5.4 with Fujifilm Provia Profile.

The X-T1 is a very nice and capable camera, however the 23 1.4, while an excellent lens is still a little bit larger than I would have preferred. I was able to fit it in my laptop bag (a Tom Bihn Ego messenger bag) in an Op/Tech neoprene pouch. The 23 1.4 is a bit too long and it made getting it in and out of my bag a bit of a challenge.

I actually think the camera size is fine, but the bag is too small. I’ve been considering a larger Crumpler messenger bag, with a proper photo insert from Tenba. 

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Fuji X-T1, 23mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4 ISO 4000 1/250. RAW file processed with LR 5.4 with Fujifilm Provia Profile.

I guess this past trip has solidified the fact that as much as I force myself to use a 35mm lens, I really don’t like that focal length – I mean it’s always “good enough”, but often find it not wide enough for the task of walking around a foreign city, and not long enough for portraits or detail shots. 

I want a camera that performs well at high-ISOs (because I am always shooting available light while traveling), has a number of excellent lenses available, and has fast and accurate autofocus performance. The X-T1 ticks all of those boxes on paper, but how it performs in the real world remains to be seen. So far the only real downsides that I have seen in the week or so since I have been shooting with it (cutting it real close – it was delivered from Amazon the day before I left for my trip!) are the poor battery life (we will get to this later) and the gigantic, corded charger. 

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Fuji X-T1, 23mm f/16 @ f/1.4 ISO 1000 1/250. RAW file processed with LR 5.4 with Fujifilm Pro Neg. Std Profile.

So the real question I have for myself – will this Fuji X-T1 be the camera I will have for a while, or should I consider the Olympus E-M1 as the ideal travel camera? The E-M1 has a number of positive features over the X-T1. Better battery life (potentially), the amazing 5-axis image stabilizer, lenses that are a bit more reasonably priced and slightly smaller, 100 base ISO, better grip, faster autofocus.  The X-T1 has a slight nod in the lens quality department, bigger sensor, better depth of field control, better low-light performance, all-metal construction on the camera and lenses and more manual controls. 

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Fuji X-T1, 23mm f/3.2 @ f/1.4 ISO 200 1/1800. RAW file processed with LR 5.4 with Fujifilm Pro Neg. Std Profile.

On the manual controls – I’m actually not sure I quite like them. I think they actually slow things down (but then again, that may be a good thing). Having the aperture ring on the lens is quite nice, but the Nikon-like control knobs on the E-M1 are fine and faster for most things.

I don’t think you can go wrong with either system for travel photography. Both the Fuji and the Olympus are much smaller and suit my needs better than the DSLRs they aim to replace.

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Fuji X-T1, 23mm f/1.4 @ f/5.6 ISO 200 1/30. JPEG file processed with LR 5.4.

If I decide to keep the X-T1, I likely will get the 14mm and the 35mm. If I go with the E-M1, I’ll pick up the 12mm, 25mm and 45mm. But for now, I’ve enjoying shooting with the X-T1 for this trip.

I’m using a Gordy’s hand strap for carrying around the X-T1 with me. Because I didn’t want to carry my large bag around I often just carried the camera. I think I would have preferred to also have a small camera bag that I could carry around while walking around the city. I will have to work on this for my next trip.

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Fuji X-T1, 23mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4 ISO 4000 1/125. RAW file processed with LR 5.4 with Fujifilm Provia Profile.

In the next several sections of this review I will discuss how this camera performed on my trip with regards to:

  • Autofocus performance
  • Battery life
  • Controls and usage
  • Low-light performance
  • Image quality and RAW file editing ability

And unlike other reviews, I will focus on how the camera performs for real shooting while describing some of the experiences of the trip. I’ve attempted to provide a sampling of some of the shots I’ve captured so far in the categories of — landscapes, environmental/street, close-up and low-light shots. I’ve been quite happy with what I have been able to capture so far. 

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Fuji X-T1, 23mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4 ISO 400 1/125. RAW file processed with LR 5.4 with Fujifilm Provia Profile.

I hope sharing my experiences with the X-T1 will help you if you are trying to decide which small mirrorless camera system you should choose to purchase. 

Beach at Yilan, Taiwan. Fuji X-T1 with 23 f/1.4 lens. Velvia camera profile in Lightroom 5.4. 

The best camera is the one you have with you (or in my case the one without a dead battery). iPhone 4s pulls out the save. #VSCOcam.

Skies over Albuquerque, NM. Shot with Ricoh GR. Skies over Albuquerque, NM. Shot with Ricoh GR. Skies over Albuquerque, NM. Shot with Ricoh GR. Skies over Albuquerque, NM. Shot with Ricoh GR.

Skies over Albuquerque, NM. Shot with Ricoh GR.

Colors of the farmer’s market. Today I went down to the market with my wife and son and had the Sony RX1 with me. I recently decided to downsize and sell all of my gear and replace it with the small, but quite capable Sony RX1. Today’s outing is something I’d likely not have a chance to capture with my previous large DSLRs. I just would have left the camera at home. The RX1 will hopefully let me capture more of these impromptu events, without having the weight and bulk of a large camera system — and not giving up much in image quality in the process. Colors of the farmer’s market. Today I went down to the market with my wife and son and had the Sony RX1 with me. I recently decided to downsize and sell all of my gear and replace it with the small, but quite capable Sony RX1. Today’s outing is something I’d likely not have a chance to capture with my previous large DSLRs. I just would have left the camera at home. The RX1 will hopefully let me capture more of these impromptu events, without having the weight and bulk of a large camera system — and not giving up much in image quality in the process. Colors of the farmer’s market. Today I went down to the market with my wife and son and had the Sony RX1 with me. I recently decided to downsize and sell all of my gear and replace it with the small, but quite capable Sony RX1. Today’s outing is something I’d likely not have a chance to capture with my previous large DSLRs. I just would have left the camera at home. The RX1 will hopefully let me capture more of these impromptu events, without having the weight and bulk of a large camera system — and not giving up much in image quality in the process. Colors of the farmer’s market. Today I went down to the market with my wife and son and had the Sony RX1 with me. I recently decided to downsize and sell all of my gear and replace it with the small, but quite capable Sony RX1. Today’s outing is something I’d likely not have a chance to capture with my previous large DSLRs. I just would have left the camera at home. The RX1 will hopefully let me capture more of these impromptu events, without having the weight and bulk of a large camera system — and not giving up much in image quality in the process. Colors of the farmer’s market. Today I went down to the market with my wife and son and had the Sony RX1 with me. I recently decided to downsize and sell all of my gear and replace it with the small, but quite capable Sony RX1. Today’s outing is something I’d likely not have a chance to capture with my previous large DSLRs. I just would have left the camera at home. The RX1 will hopefully let me capture more of these impromptu events, without having the weight and bulk of a large camera system — and not giving up much in image quality in the process. Colors of the farmer’s market. Today I went down to the market with my wife and son and had the Sony RX1 with me. I recently decided to downsize and sell all of my gear and replace it with the small, but quite capable Sony RX1. Today’s outing is something I’d likely not have a chance to capture with my previous large DSLRs. I just would have left the camera at home. The RX1 will hopefully let me capture more of these impromptu events, without having the weight and bulk of a large camera system — and not giving up much in image quality in the process. Colors of the farmer’s market. Today I went down to the market with my wife and son and had the Sony RX1 with me. I recently decided to downsize and sell all of my gear and replace it with the small, but quite capable Sony RX1. Today’s outing is something I’d likely not have a chance to capture with my previous large DSLRs. I just would have left the camera at home. The RX1 will hopefully let me capture more of these impromptu events, without having the weight and bulk of a large camera system — and not giving up much in image quality in the process.

Colors of the farmer’s market. Today I went down to the market with my wife and son and had the Sony RX1 with me. I recently decided to downsize and sell all of my gear and replace it with the small, but quite capable Sony RX1. Today’s outing is something I’d likely not have a chance to capture with my previous large DSLRs. I just would have left the camera at home. The RX1 will hopefully let me capture more of these impromptu events, without having the weight and bulk of a large camera system — and not giving up much in image quality in the process.

Tokyo, Japan. Shot with OM-D E-M5 and Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4. Processed with Lightroom and VSCO.  Tokyo, Japan. Shot with OM-D E-M5 and Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4. Processed with Lightroom and VSCO.  Tokyo, Japan. Shot with OM-D E-M5 and Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4. Processed with Lightroom and VSCO.  Tokyo, Japan. Shot with OM-D E-M5 and Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4. Processed with Lightroom and VSCO.  Tokyo, Japan. Shot with OM-D E-M5 and Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4. Processed with Lightroom and VSCO.  Tokyo, Japan. Shot with OM-D E-M5 and Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4. Processed with Lightroom and VSCO.  Tokyo, Japan. Shot with OM-D E-M5 and Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4. Processed with Lightroom and VSCO.  Tokyo, Japan. Shot with OM-D E-M5 and Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4. Processed with Lightroom and VSCO.  Tokyo, Japan. Shot with OM-D E-M5 and Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4. Processed with Lightroom and VSCO.  Tokyo, Japan. Shot with OM-D E-M5 and Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4. Processed with Lightroom and VSCO. 

Tokyo, Japan. Shot with OM-D E-M5 and Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4. Processed with Lightroom and VSCO. 

Feast of the seven fishes. An Italian family tradition. Some OM-D goodness. 

D700 + Sigma 85 1.4, a winning combination.

This was a cool shot to take. Pretty easy when I get the settings dialed in. D700 + Sigma 85mm f/1.4 on a tripod. Lighting was a 60” shoot-trough for the key and a bare-bulb backlight. Both were SB-900s. Sparklers provided the light painting. I believe about a 10 second exposure at f/11 or so.