Currently I’m putting Fuji’s highly acclaimed X-T1 through its paces. It came with the standard 18-55 zoom but I have managed to borrow a remarkable little pancake, the 27mm f/2.8. I reckon it is just about the bee’s knees when it comes to street photography.
My first question, though, is how this combination compares with the lionised X100/S/T, the camera that started Fuji on to X series road in 2010. It seems incredible now that we have seen the X cameras spawn like crazy from such a simple beginning. But, more important, Fuji has launched perhaps the most comprehensive array of pro-quality lenses ever seen in such a short period.
The X100 range with its 35mm-equivalent fixed focal length and ingenious hybrid viewfinder has rightly won its place high on the list of streettog desirables. This little Leica M3 lookalike is probably the most popular go-to camera for street enthusiasts.
The new X-T1 is aimed at a different market. Instead of fixed-lens simplicity it offers a first-class ticket to the wonderful world of Fujinon XF glass. The original 18-55 zoom and that sharp, Summilux-challenging 35mm f/1.4 are still going strong and are as popular as ever. But the range has been expanded with some great prime lenses such as the 23mm f/1.4 and the new 56mm f/1.2 APD, a portrait-painter’s delight.
While the spotlight isn’t so accurately focused on the cute little 27mm f/2.8, this aspherical lens has carved a solid reputation as a versatile optic for the X-series ILCs. For me, it has an overriding benefit in its 27mm focal length which is equivalent to full-frame 41mm.
As the holder of a Masters in vacillation, I appreciate this mid-point between the twin holies of 35mm and 50mm. Popular prejudice among streettogs runs to a wide thirty five. But I have recently tended towards the longer nifty fifty. So, here, in one diminutive package, we have the vacillator’s dream come true. I approach it with the same reverence that experienced Leica owners have for the tiny 40mm Leica Summicron-C made for the defunct C and CLE cameras back in the ’70s. It lost its popularity post-C because M cameras lack 40mm framelines but I can see a resurrection now EVF use is possible.
Street at f/8
For street photography I don’t miss the brighter F/2 of the X100 family; f/2.8 is more than fast enough and, truth be told, most street work is done between 5.6 and 8. The little 27mm is therefore just about perfect.
As a package, the X-T1 and 27mm rivals the new X100T. At 530g it is only 90g heavier than the fixed-lens camera and the small added bulk makes it more sure in the hands, especially with the benefit of that generous grip. Together with a wrist strap, I find the X-T1 combo easier to manage than the X100.
The X-T1 offers a wider range of manual controls, including direct dial access to ISO, but the 27mm lens loses out to the X100 in not having a manual aperture ring. It is a small compromise, however.
Viewfinder spec is the first big difference between the two cameras. The X-T1 has the brightest and biggest mirrorless-camera EVF in the business. It is superb and is particularly suited to manual focus. On the other hand, the X100T compensates for its smaller and more discreet EVF by providing an ingenious hybrid optical/electronic view. Having tried both, I came to the conclusion that the optical finder in the X100 is a distraction. I soon reverted to the electronic view. The EVF is all I need and, with this in mind, the X-T1 wins hands down. It also has the big advantage of a tilting screen which is useful for low-down shots. I will offer one proviso. If you have never used a rangefinder such as that on Leica’s M you will tarry a while with the X100’s optical finder and be intrigued. If, on the other hand, you are used to a Leica you cannot help but be disappointed and will soon be glued to the EVF.
The second big difference is the obvious one: Fixed lens versus interchangeable lenses. While the XT-1 and 27mm does a sterling job of matching the X100T feature for feature and heft for heft, it has the overriding advantage of flexibility.
Not only can you turn your minimal street camera into a fine portrait device or, even, a passable sports capture instrument, you have at your disposal one of the best ranges of lenses on the market. If you wish, also, you can access almost all Leica, Zeiss and Voigtländer manual M-mount lenses made in the past 50 or 60 years (using the optional adapter, of course).
Yes, I do believe the X-T1 with a suitable lens is as good as the X100T for street photography. As part of an overall system it beats the fixed-lens camera in practicality. If, however, you own an ILC with a range of lenses you will enjoy the X100T as a handy second camera. In the final analysis the choice is down to you.
Since the firmware update in late December 2014 I have had further thoughts on these two cameras, also bringing the X-E2 into the equation:
And now for something different:
Here is another picture taken at the same time in the same location, Brick Lane. But there is a big difference. This one was taken with Leica’s new M-P and a sharp 50mm Summilux M. Like the Fuji, the M-P was set to a slow aperture (in this case f/7.1) and 1/125s to avoid shake. I leave the verdict to you. But this combo costs £9,200 compared with the Fuji and 27mm at around £1,250. It is also twice as heavy because, verily, it is built like a brick outhouse.
Postsript (23/11/2014): Eric Kim has been testing the X100T as a street camera and concludes that it is marginally better at the job than the X-T1. Read his full article here