Andy Westlake re-assesses Fujifilm’s popular CSC in the light of its latest firmware update
Fujifilm X-T1: Firmware Ver.3 highlights
Obviously, a mere firmware update can’t change the shape of the camera or its control layout. But it can really improve some aspects of operation, such as button customisation, onscreen displays and control logic. Here Fujifilm has made a number of small changes across various updates, and by the accumulation of marginal gains, the camera has become noticeably quicker and more pleasant to use.
A new viewfinder mode aims to give a more natural rendition of the scene, rather than reflecting the current JPEG processing settings. This prevents shadows blocking up and colours over-saturating in the live view display, so is most useful with the high contrast, high saturation Velvia mode. Personally I prefer to preview these things while shooting, but it’s good to see Fujifilm offering the choice.
It’s also now possible to preview exposure and white balance settings in manual exposure mode. An expanded range of options can be assigned to the various programmable buttons, and a particularly nice touch is the option to customise the onscreen Q Menu with the settings you change most often. I particularly appreciate the ability to move the AF area around the frame directly using the d-pad on the back of the camera, without having to press a function button first.
It’s not just the firmware that has been updated, either. At the X-T1’s launch, one of the major gripes raised by reviewers was the recessed, spongey-feeling d-pad on the camera’s back. Since then, Fujifilm has quietly redesigned these buttons to protrude a little further and click more positively. Sadly though, there’s nothing a firmware update can do to make the always-locked ISO dial more accessible and quicker to change. If this annoys you on the X-T1 as it does me, then the X-T10 is worth a look.
Silent Electronic Shutter
As the headline addition in Firmware Ver.3, Fujifilm introduced a fully electronic shutter option that brings two key benefits. First, it’s completely silent, which is great for shooting in situations where the sound of the physical shutter would be intrusive. Secondly, it allows the use of exceptionally fast shutter speeds up to 1/32,000 sec, which allows shooting with ultra-fast primes such as the XF 56mm f/1.2R wide open in bright light (normally you’d need a neutral density filter to avoid over-exposure). The user can select between mechanical or electronic shutter in the menu, or allow the camera to choose between the two automatically in MS+ES mode.
Silent mode has a couple of drawbacks, though. It’s prone to rolling shutter artefacts, giving distortion of moving subjects, and fast-flickering fluorescent lights can produce horizontal banding that is near impossible to correct. It also comes with some odd incompatibilities – it disables the use of extended ISO sensitivities and prevents refocusing between frames during continuous shooting. As these apply even when the camera is using the mechanical shutter mode in MS+ES mode, it’s best to turn on the electronic shutter only when needed. Luckily the mechanical shutter is pretty quiet anyway.