Bobbi Lane, named one of the Top Workshop Instructors by Photo District News, is an award-winning commercial photographer specializing in creative portraits on location and in the studio. Lane's multi-faceted approach to photography incorporates over 35 years of technical experience with innovative artistic interpretation. Lane shoots primarily people on location for editorial, corporate, and advertising accounts as well as photographing "real people" and travel for stock
As a dedicated photo educator, she brings insight and enthusiasm to her students in workshops held worldwide. Bobbi is known for teaching lighting techniques for portraits, both natural and strobe, and also for leading international photo travel workshops. Bobbi's excellent rapport and communication with her students inspires and motivates, while her straight-forward teaching style reaches students of many different skill levels. At APA National's 25th Anniversary, Bobbi was honored with a Special Recognition Award for Education.
My first impression is that the Fuji XT1 is the best mirrorless and light weight camera that I have experienced. I have been shooting with it for just over two weeks and it's an impressive piece of equipment. My goal always as a photographer is to use the tool that is appropriate to my vision, so whatever gear I need to get the job done, or complete the visual that I want to create, is the right tool. My cameras should be an extension of my hands, and I want to use them intuitively, not having to stop and think about the mechanics, but be comfortable with the controls so that I can adjust quickly and easily. I don't pamper my gear; I use it hard and expect it to perform. The XT1 so far is good, really good, far better than I expected from a small camera. I do have some concerns and I will address them a bit later. My intention in this letter is not to do a full review, but talk about what is important to me.
I've been a Nikon user my entire 40 year career, with the exception of my beginnings in digital, when I started with the Fuji S1, then S3, then S5, which I truly loved. I used the Fuji because I already had all the Nikon lenses and, as you know, the early Nikon sensors were not very good. When the agreement with Nikon and Fuji ended, I started using the Nikon D300, and since then I've owned or still own the Nikon D600, Nikon D7100, and Nikon D700. After being accustomed to the Fuji sensor and its great color and tone, the quality of color in the sensor of the Nikons was somewhat of a disappointment and I'm always working on getting the red out of the skin tone. As a portrait photographer, that's frustrating.
The other difficulty is that I've been carrying the weight of all that gear for 40 years, and quite frankly, I'm tired of lugging it around. I have been looking forward to the advent of the smaller, lighter mirrorless cameras. I've had several of the high end Panasonic Lumix, and loved them, but really only as "play" cameras, never used for a job or any serious work. I started shooting with the Fuji X100S in November and that was a huge leap for me. The Lumixs are gone, I won't touch them again. The X100S camera, the colors and tones, the ease of use, the sharpness, the speed, all have far surpassed any other small camera I've touched. I don't pamper it either and it has performed admirably.
I've researched what has been developing in the mirrorless cameras, and I've been aware of the higher end Fujis and seen excellent results. I was still hoping for a full frame, like the Sony A7, but Sony currently doesn't have a Nikon adapter, and their lenses are not that great and slow in being developed. Regardless, I don't really want to put my huge 70-200 f 2.8 on a little camera. I have been waiting and hoping for a small mirrorless camera that would give me the quality I need on every level. I am ready to chuck all the big cameras and lenses. The Fuji XT1 is well on the way to providing what I want.
Two of the great things about Fuji are the quality of lenses and the quality of the sensor for color and tone. Both of these are extremely important to me and Fuji provides them both. There already exists a good range of Fuji lenses and I know that several more, including the weather resistant ones, are on their way to being released this year. I bought my very first view camera lens, a Fujinon f 6.3 in 1974 because the specs were fantastic. I still have that lens! With the XT1, I'm so happy to be getting back to the color that I demand. The skin tones are so beautiful and accurate, not tainted with red. All colors are rendered beautifully and the tonal range and dynamic range are exquisite. Even in my early testing shootings, I photographed a dark skinned model in the studio and a pale skinned model in natural light. I opened up the jpegs and realized that I did not need to do any adjusting to the files! No color adjustment, exposure corrections, curves, etc. I don't remember the last time that happened. That was my first indication that this camera was what I have been looking for.
I've shot with the Fuji 56mm 1.2 and the 18-55 f 2.8-4. The medium zoom is a tremendous general lens, sharp, easy to work with, and a fast mid range zoom. It's the perfect walk around, street shooting lens when you want to cover anything from wide street scenes to closer portraits. The 56mm f 1.2, however is a fantastic and sharp lens. I shoot mostly portraits, anything from travel portraits to models to "real people", and a fast lens is extremely important to me. I like working in low light and I love the bokeh of the background wide open. This 56mm f 1.2 is perfect for the type of shooting that I do, both in the studio and with natural light. It's small, but so fast and sharp, amazing sharpness corner to corner. My fiancé, Lee Varis, has been shooting with the XPro1 and he has the 18, 35 and 60, so I have access to those lenses, too. I'm looking forward to the WRs that are coming out, as I do want a longer and fast zoom.
Here are my impressions of the camera, both pro and concerns.
The XT1 is so well built, durable, weather resistant, light, and comfortable in my hands that it will become my primary camera in many situations. As I mentioned before, I beat my gear, work it hard in difficult places like deserts, heat and humidity, and cold and rainy. The WR is very important to me. What's more important is that it fits well in my hands and it feels good, making my creative process smooth. As with any new gear, it does take a while to get used to the placement of settings and making it automatic. I can't say that in 2 ½ weeks that it's totally familiar yet, but it will be in time. I really love the dials and aperture ring. It's easy to change SS, f stop, shooting mode, exposure compensation, ISO, focus mode, etc, without having to stop and look at the camera. The size and weight are perfect. Even with the lightweight, it still feels solid and trustworthy, unlike some other cameras that feel like a cheap toy.
The sensor is fabulous, great color and tonal range, beautiful RAW files and fantastic jpegs. I don't normally shoot jpegs, but the quality is so high, and the ability to use the Fujifilm presets is awesome! I've enjoyed trying the various modes and they work beautifully. 16 MP is plenty large enough for a lot of my work. And the sharpness is terrific, too. My primary concern is achieving neutral and real skin tones, and here is where the Fuji XT1 performs about better than any other camera. It's a joy to be photographing people with a Fuji again! A couple of other things: I don't normally shoot auto white balance, but the XT1 does an amazing job of getting excellent color in odd situations. I like being able to fine tune my color and setting the Kelvin Temperature. Also the performance at high ISOs is extraordinary, rivaling many of the higher end DSLRs. And lastly, I normally shoot Manual exposure but I've found that using aperture priority gives me excellent exposure results, better than any other camera I've ever used. It handles tricky lighting situations easily. This totally rocks!
Although it's quick and easy to change the focus to back button AF-L just by setting the front dial to M, the button is small and hard to find. It's right above the thumb ridge and I found myself hitting the AE-L instead. The direction buttons that surround the Menu button are also small, are somewhat recessed and hard to find. I have to pull my eye away from the viewfinder to look at the buttons and that interferes with my flow in shooting.
I seem to be having problems focusing, both with the camera finding and holding the focus and also, the accuracy of the sharpness. Part of this might be my inexperience with the camera, but because of the way I shoot, especially wide open, this has been a concern. I always use the single point focus and I like that I can control the size of the focus point. I still need to get used to the direction buttons to easily and quickly move that point of focus, and that is just more practice on my part. However, I find that that focus searches more than I would expect. This happens a couple of ways. If I use the shutter button to focus, I will depress halfway and lock focus, then when I fully depress the shutter, the focus changes out and back and then shoots. So it's not always accurate when it does shoot, plus it keeps me from shooting at the moment I want. This is very frustrating and not workable for me. It doesn't happen all the time and I've not been able to determine yet exactly what circumstances it does this. If I use the back button focus, it happens occasionally, too, which shouldn't happen at all with the back button. Also, when it's says it's in focus, when I enlarge it, it's not sharp. I'm finding that I am losing a good amount of images due to bad focusing. This is again, frustrating and unacceptable. It's possible that I'm doing something wrong, but not sure yet if it's because I'm not practiced enough. Shooting in low light is very difficult as well with the camera searching for focus. That is understandable, but still hard for me.
Having said that, the EVF is fantastic! Looking through the viewfinder is a joy. It's bright and almost 3D. I have the focus peaking set and that works well on fully manual. The LCD screen is bright and clear and huge and having the tilting screen is helpful, too.
Overall, I'm very happy with the camera and lenses and battery grip. I'm finally getting the color and quality I want from a small camera and in many ways, it's surpassed my expectations. I am looking forward to really working with the XT1 and continuing to work with the X100s. Both are superb pieces of gear. I'm delighted to be working again with the quality and color of the Fuji sensor, which is so important to me for both my portrait work and also my travel images. The new lenses coming out will make the Fuji XT1 a complete system, from wide to telephoto, with the high quality of lenses and the speed. For me, this camera system is the dream I have been waiting to come true, a complete lightweight mirrorless system with a high quality sensor, sharp lenses, durable body and ease of use.