by Edward Crim

In the never-ending struggle to find the ultimate camera system, photographers around the world deprecate and exalt various brands, camera models and lenses, so why should I be any different?

In the beginning of my digital days, I shot film (4×5 & medium format), scanned it, worked with it in Photoshop v3 (The current version is 14) and printed it to either color film or large inkjet prints. Then 2003 struck, and a camera that met my standards for versatility and quality appeared on the market. It was the Canon 1Ds, an 11MP monster which, at up to ISO 400, matched or exceeded the quality I got from medium format film. It was a full frame 35mm behemoth. It was big, bad, and frightened the amateurs, who kept a respectful distance from me as I performed my photo jobs in public. Put onto a Custom Brackets flash bracket, which rotated my camera and held my Metz 60-series flash, it was an unstoppable photo force, not only commanding respect but, weighing almost 10 pounds, giving me a suitable workout while on the job.

Fast-forward 11 years, and one thing hasn’t changed much: digital sensors have changed; they are an order of magnitude better than before. Memory cards have changed; they’ve gotten faster and smaller and hold many more images and cost a lot less than they used to. Digital cameras themselves have gotten more versatile; now they shoot stills and video, do in-camera conversion of RAW files, in-camera HDR, and send files to your phone. What we do not yet have, however, is a line-up of great prime lenses for crop-sensor SLR cameras. Whether you buy a Canon or a Nikon (generally considered the only two systems worth the professional photographer’s consideration), only the 35mm size sensors (commonly called “full frame”) have a decent array of primes available for them. This was the reason I bought the Canon 1Ds in 2003; it was the first 35mm format (full-frame} camera to appear on the market.

Prime lens shooters who want a great selection of lenses, therefore, have only two options in DSLR cameras, yes, you guessed it, Canon and Nikon. Until now, that is. Now there is a great camera that handles like a DSLR (actually, it handles better than most of the Nikon and Canon DSLR cameras), has a great line-up of lenses including fast prime lenses from wide angle to short telephoto, and doesn’t use the awkward and icky 4/3 format sensor. The Fujifilm XT-1. It’s light, it’s rugged, it’s got the best of today’s camera features mated with the best classical camera layout. It has a shutter speed dial on the top of the camera (WOOT, WOOT!). The lenses have aperture rings (Hip, hip, hooray!). The ISO is set via a dial to the left of the viewfinder (GO TEAM!). On the front of the camera is an easy to use switch for focus settings (We’ve got a winner!). And that’s not all! Fujifilm builds their own line of camera sensors, with a novel and superior approach to color capture and eliminating moiré.

The features and layout of the fabulous Fujifilm XT-1 are not even the best feature of the camera, ladies and gentlemen; the real deal-maker is the great Fujifilm lens line-up. Let’s take the “standard” lenses that most people start with. The 18-55mm f 2.8-4 lens that is normally bundled with the camera is similar to other manufacturers’ offerings, but for the far superior build quality and much larger maximum apertures – it allows twice as much light through compared to the Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax and even Leica (!) equivalent lenses. Then there’s the 55-200 mm telephoto f3.5-4.8, again brighter, and more rugged than offerings from Fujifilm’s competitors

So, Fujifilm offers a great line-up in their X-series zoom lenses – from 10mm to 200mm with more lenses on the way – but the BIG deal is their X-series prime lenses. So far they have released the very compact 18mm f2 and the super-bright 23mm f1.4, 35mm f1.4, and 56mm f1.2. They have also announced two more wide-aperture lenses, the 16mm f1.4 and the 90mm f2 for release in 2015. No other APS-C camera system offers such a comprehensive selection, and compared to the micro four thirds offerings from Olympus and Panasonic, the Fujifilm X-series lenses are wider aperture and the much larger Fuji sensor offers a shallower depth of field.

Of course every system has its weaknesses, and the Fujifilm X series is no exception to that rule. I was only able to find one thing about the Fujifilm that I don’t like, and that is the relatively short battery life when in active use, a shortcoming the Fujifilm cameras share with all other EVF cameras, including those from Olympus and Panasonic. The EVF is quite necessary, however, to shedding the weight and bulk of the more traditional DSLR cameras.

The final word? If you’re serious about photography and looking for a lighter, more compact system, there is nothing that compares with the Fujifilm X system. Don’t just sit there, head on over to Schiller’s camera in St. Louis and buy yourself one!