Fuji X-System, A Clarification

Reading posts here and there one might thing I’ve got some strange Fuji vendetta. I regularly poke fun, mock, and cast aspersions on the company and it’s products. Turns out I’m a big fan of the company and it’s products. After an extended email conversation with a reader I thought some clarification of my thoughts might be appropriate regarding Fuji and their X-series cameras.

My criticism isn’t targeted at Fuji or the products directly. It’s more or less aimed at the kool-aid drinking users that heap copious amounts of praise without much context on every single product that comes out of the Fuji factory. I consider it a bit of Yang to all the Yin, a counterbalance of the universe if you will. I’m a Fuji X-system customer. I’ve owned quite a few products, and have enough experience shooting the cameras side-by-side with alternatives. Most of the heavily negative thoughts or opinions is not intended for happy Fuji customers, it’s more for a level set of potential customers thinking of making a leap.

Without snark, sarcasm, or agenda here’s my personal bottom-line on the system and cameras as a whole right now.

  • Fuji makes the best APS-C camera system in the world right now if you take a step back and evaluate it as a whole. The other guys make okay cameras, in some cases better cameras but in the glass department no other manufacturer comes close. Even the big guys APS-C specific offerings are compromised and have giant holes for most photographers. I consider Canon/Nikon APS-C offerings half-baked. In reality they’re full-frame camera companies unless of course you specialized in super-telephoto shooting.
  • I recommend Fuji to about 80% of people that ask me based on their needs, what they’re using now, budget, and what they seem to want in a camera and camera system.
  • Myself? I could easily use a modest sized Fuji system and be 90% happy never looking back. There’s nothing that’s a show stopper, no technical reason I couldn’t, and if I adjusted my personal priorities just slightly I probably would. Heck, I could probably live with an XPro-1 or even an XE-1 and the 18-55 and be done for under $1000. Really I could. Maybe, just maybe I’d have to chuck a few fast primes in there to satisfy my gear lust.

What about the downsides? Why don’t I just shoot a small Fuji system and be done with it? What particular priorities cause me to decide against that?

  • Tied for the biggest reason is the state of the software and or speed of the hardware that runs the cameras. They just feel clunky and laggy. Far more a feel than a super huge impediment in making pictures. Newer models feel less this way than older ones but still bothersome for me. Highly personal.
  • EVF’s are just not there for me yet. Again a highly personal point of view. Given a choice I still prefer an OVF. Are they getting better? Sure. Does Fuji have the best EVF’s? Hard to say definitively but that’s mostly due to how incremental the progress has been. If pressed I’d have to say the one on the new Sony A7II might be the best one but that would be a hair different than say the XT-1’s nothing night and day.
  • The mere fact that when the camera is in use the sensor is always, always, always powered up leading to the related fact that it’s impossible to power manage mirrorless cameras remotely the same way as a DSLR. Which leads to horrible battery life. Not a huge deal if that’s the only thing. Ever wonder why there’s no real advances in battery life… sensor is always on. This is probably not going to go away. I get almost 2000 shots out of a battery in my Nikon Df that’s smaller than my X100S battery. No kidding.

That’s really it. I could go on to list a million minor nits but there really not that big of a deal to me personally. Take a look, they’re all tiny little things — nits. Hardly anything to cast aspersions on. I could do that with any camera I use or ever have used. What’s wrong with the Fuji world in my opinion isn’t the system, it’s the zealots. There seems to be only zealots. Yep, every user base has it’s zealots, there just seems to be only zealots and that’s not a great or even relevant information source for people looking to make decisions with hard earned cash.

An example: Every single product that comes out. Every minor upgrade in the form of a completely new camera is vaunted as a must-have upgrade and completely revolutionary advancement. In reality Fuji has released the exact same cameras they’ve already had every year as a new model. Minor operational or performance differences at best from the last one. Don’t think that’s the case? I’ll break it down.

X100 Class

  • X100 released 2011
  • X100S released 2013 new sensor similar IQ, minor performance and operational differences.
  • X100T released 2014 same sensor, same IQ, similar performance and operational characteristics.

XPro-1 Class

  • released 2012 no update ummm same IQ as all the rest of um.

XE-1 Class

  • XE-1 released 2012
  • XE-2 released 2013 same sensor, same IQ, similar performance and operational characteristics.
  • XT-1 released 2014 same sensor, same IQ, similar performance and operational characteristics.

These are absolutely not in the same league as the crazy IQ and performance boosts we all saw every year or two when digital was brand new, not even close but somehow in the Fuji world that’s the way it’s shouted from the rooftops. The company has and has had three cameras of very very similar performance, IQ, and operational characteristics. They’ve been about the same for a while. I won’t talk about the X-mount cameras that nobody uses or cares about. They’re the same camera just without the viewfinder. One might argue that the performance is night and day between these. It’s not if you measure from an unweighted baseline. If you make one of those graphs designed to make tiny differences look bigger than sure, you could make them look like giant differences.

I remember the hype surrounding the release of the X100S. I bought one thinking okay, now this is going to be night and day based on all the stuff I’ve read on the internet. Shot them side by side and was like… WTF? They’re the same. The one and only thing that was really an improvement was not having to go into macro mode for a lot of shots I tend to make at distances I tend to work at. That improvement was software which the X100 also got. WTF? Having shot every one of those cameras above I get the same feeling.

Contrast that with what I’ll term similar non-event releases in a more mature system. Lets take the D800 to D810 or the D4 to D4s. Crickets. Hell even the D7000 to D7100 which is REALLY a giant night/day upgrade, still crickets. Sure if you’re in the market for a new camera great but there’s no deluge of current version users trying to convince the world that it’s a must-have upgrade. The real fan-boys and techno-anxiety types must must must get the newest one but that’s not the general notion out there.

I look at it as a public service to just calm everyone down and look at things more even-keeled verse a teenage girl at a Justin Bieber concert. Sort of like that breathtaking nonsense regarding a 50mm-ish 1.4-ish lens somehow being earth shatteringly different in terms of DOF when in reality subjects framed the same way on a FF digi or film body with the most common lens in the universe delivers even less DOF.

There you have it. Fuji — the absolute best APS-C system out there if you want a full range of great glass at a great value with reasonable IQ. Need a sports camera with even more reach and faster response in APS-C without a full lens lineup dedicated to APS-C, there maybe better choices. Want to go mirrorless with a couple of really nice primes Fuji really is hard to beat. I like what they’ve done, especially in the lens department at prices that are real-world obtainable.

RB

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